Acequia Community Spotlight: San Mateo Irrigation Association


Jack M
árquez was born and raised in the beautiful agricultural community of San Mateo, New Mexico. Jack moved to Missouri in 1970 after graduating from high school to pursue work then moved on to California in 1974 to start his own business. Jack started L&M Editorial Repair in Burbank California providing editing equipment to film makers and editors as the film industry developed. He left the business in 2008 and returns home to San Mateo to be with his family, farm, and become more involved with his acequia, San Mateo Irrigation Association.
 
On February 12, 1768 Santiago Duran y Cháves received a grant, four square leagues, about 15 square miles known as the San Mateo Spring Grant. New Mexico Governor at the time was Pedro Fermín Mendinueta and Alcalde was Bartolome Fernandez. Santiago was related to my fifth great grandfather, Pedro Antonio and his father Diego Antonio Duran y Cháves. Santiago ran around 5,000 sheep, some cattle and horses. One of his water sources was the water from San Mateo Springs. Acequias, being one of the oldest form of government- in the early 1800, the acequias were already being improved, planting crops, pastures and orchards. People could not stay for extended periods of time, for fear of attack by Apache and Navajo tribes.
 
In 1862, typical Spanish fashion of pobelando, water sources and protection, 15 families from Cebolleta one being our fourth great uncle, Santiago Marquez, poblarón San Mateo, beginning the community garden. It was called la Tierrita de San Mateo. Sacabá

n al Santo, San Yisidro Labrador a pidiré buen siembra. Below that were suertes, 1 through 36, being 150 feet wide and a mile long. Our current Cibola County mapping has the irrigation system in place before 1870. In 1935 the San Mateo atarque was built, sponsored by the State Engineer together with the WPA, partly with mula y escrepa.
 

Our uncle Roman S. Marquez, now 91, being 8 or 9 years old at the time was sent to take lunch to his older brother, Horacio, who was 17 or 18. At lunch time when the workers were out of the area, the WPA would blast to loosen rock and soil, uncle Roman would not take the lunch all the way for the fear of the blasting, so uncle Horacio would have to come down part way to get his lunch!
 
San Mateo applied for ditch commission in 1940. In late 1940 or early 1950, silt was cleaned with large excavators. Our uncle Horacio was working out of town at the time: he supplied gasoline, and our dad, Thomas transported it. He must have worked security late at night, because our sister Josie remembers walking his dinner to him late in the evening. Uncle Horacio would experiment irrigating wheat, milo, and other grains. Our Dad had alfalfa, corn, pumpkins, arbejon, and a flock of 60 sheep for grazing the land that could not be irrigated. A jersey cow was a source for milk, queso, and white gravy. The two families shared a full garden.
 
Beginning in 1908, both young parents had to work, and the large siembras declined, but the family gardens were still going strong, and still irrigating the pastures and multiple orchards around the town. There are varieties of cherries and apricots (when they do not freeze) also peaches, pears, and apple trees that are over 100 years old whose seeds possibly came from Spain, we do not see that kind anywhere else! Our antepasados acequia association was set up well. Our current wonderful commission has the tabla set up, the limpia organized all the way up to the ojitos y los enfrenetes beginning two weeks before the corridera April 10th to October 10th with little maintenance throughout the season as it arises.
 
When I was growing up in San Mateo, my favorite Mayordomo was Maximilano (Max) Barela. A kind hardworking man who would go out of his way to help everyone. He played no favorites, todos tocaban! One time, my Dad and a few of us kids were escardanco la milpa, as I recall, el tanque de abajo, was close to Max's house and a half mile from our field. He told my dad, waving his arms, cuando te haga la sena, es que ya viene la agua, so my Dad did not have to keep checking for the water, buenas memorias!   
Every San Mateño has a unique quality of their own, too many to mention to do them justice. San Mateo is a member of the NM Acequia Association, with their help and guidance, we look forward to improving our irrigation ditch infrastructure. All our ancestors being Native American, Anglo, Mexican, Spanish and people from all around the world, New Mexico is truly the Land of Enchantment!
 
Proudly,
Jack D. Márquez, Parciante of San Mateo Irrigation Association