Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Water Connects Culture to the Land in Mora County.

Byline: Poco de Todo RICHARD MAHLER For the Journal

A few weeks ago, I spent part of a crisp, sunny afternoon picking raspberries in Mora County. It's a delightful end-of-season ritual that gets us city-dwellers out in the berry patch, smelling the perfume of ripe fruit and the musky scent of rich soil. For a few fleeting hours, I felt deeply connected to one of the most gorgeous places in northern New Mexico, the east slope of the Sangre de Cristo range. It's a feeling Paula Garcia knows well.

"Every fall around this time, I am called home to help my family," the Mora native told me. "I go to the farms of my uncle and grandfather to join in the harvest of irrigated hay, corn and wheat. We bring our cattle down from the high country and into the lower pastures of the valley. My ties to this place are very strong."

Garcia lives in Albuquerque, where she is working toward a master's degree at the University of New Mexico and serving as executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. "Acequia" has Arabic origins and refers to both a communal irrigation ditch system and the organization that governs the system and distributes its water.

The NMAA is a statewide federation committed to protecting the long-term viability of the acequia system as the generations-old foundation of a way of life in places like Mora, an isolated county dependent on subsistence farming and grazing for the livelihood of its mostly Spanish-speaking residents. …

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