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Oral history interviews of Sharon Stewart's El Cerrito y la Acequia Madre Oral History Project

Identifier: MSS-819-BC

Scope and Content

El Cerrito y la Acequia Madre, ©Sharon Stewart. (El Cerrito y la Acequia Madre Project, Pict 2003-014)

The collection consists of oral interviews conducted with Macario Torrez (2001), Margie and Abran Quintana (2003), Jack and Heidi Lanstra (1993, 1998), and Helen and Florencio Quintana (2001). There is an outline of the interview with Helen and Florencio Quintana, all other interviews are transcribed. Sharon Stewart was the interviewer. She is joined in one interview (Jack and Heidi Lanstra) by Cindy Freedman. Interviews shed light on the history and culture of El Cerrito, N.M., with attention to water, agriculture and the acequia. The interview with Margie and Abran Quintana discusses historic preservation and church history in El Cerrito.


  • 1993-2003


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material allowed for research purposes. Commercial use is prohibited, except with written permission of Sharon Stewart. Any use of the materials shall include copyright credit: "El Cerrito y La Acequia Madre Project ©Sharon Stewart, interviewer. [name of interviewee], interviewee." User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws.

Biography / History

Sharon Stewart: Born in Edinburg, Texas, on the South Texas borderlands with Mexico, educated in finance and economics at the University of Texas and Harvard University, Sharon Stewart is a photographer of the cultural landscapes of Texas, the American Southwest, and Ancient Greece.

As founding Vice President of the Houston Center for Photography, Stewart served on its Board of Directors, Programming and Education Committees while writing for its quarterly publication. She is a member of the "Water in the West Project and Archive," a consortium of eleven photographers whose continuing self-directed surveys document the politics and history of water use in the American West.

Sharon Stewart lives in the mountain village of Chacón, NM, at the confluence of the Great Plains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where she has extensively photographed the economic, social, familial, mythic, and religious influences that define the cultural landscape of northern New Mexico.

Project History: This project, begun in 1992, presents a village life portrait of El Cerrito, NM, animated by an interdependence on water from the community irrigation ditch, or acequia. No one in El Cerrito remembers being told of the acequia’s origins, lending to speculation that the waterway was created by Native Americans who first inhabited this Pecos River Valley. Others believe its existence can be ascribed, as some other 1,000 acequias in New Mexico, to the efforts of Franciscan priests, who when colonizing the region for Spain, were directed by the crown to establish two vital elements of village life—water and faith. Very likely a confluence of efforts set this hand dug, one-and-a-half-mile gravity flow channel that sustains the village.

Acequia also refers to an association of users that honors water as a community resource rather than a commodity. Parciantes (water-rights holders) have shared for generations in the responsibility of maintaining a waterway that feeds their families, orchards, gardens, fields, and livestock. While recharging watersheds, acequias also provide a rich riparian zone for wildlife, shade trees, and native plants, many of which are used in traditional medicines. In a self-governing system dating to the Moors, who established acequias in Spain during their seven century occupation, the mayordomo (caretaker) is selected by the parciantes to oversee the acequia’s maintenance throughout the year and especially, in an almost religious involvement, during the spring limpia (cleaning). In El Cerrito, the limpia is the one social gathering outside the rare wedding and more common funeral for which extended family and curious students of traditional village life return.

Source: Biography and project history supplied by Sharon Stewart.


1 box (.35 cu. ft. including 16 CDs and 4 folders of transcripts)


This collection of oral interviews sheds light on the history and culture of El Cerrito, N.M., with particular attention to water, agriculture and the acequia.

Related Material

El Cerrito y la Acequia Madre Photograph Collection. Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Libraries José A. Rivera Papers. Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Libraries El Agua Es La Vida: A Village Life Portrait gallery/website by Sharon Stewart.

Separated Material

Master CDs are stored in B3.

Processing Information

Cassettes reformatted to CD, March 2009.
Finding Aid of the Oral history interviews of Sharon Stewart's El Cerrito y la Acequia Madre Oral History Project, 1993-2003
Edited Full Draft
B. Silbergleit
© 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131