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Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico Paperback – July 1, 1993


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Mayordomo: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico + A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm + The River in Winter: New and Selected Essays
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Product Details

  • Series: Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico
  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826314457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826314451
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crawford here records one year in the life of a small acequia (members' association for a community irrigation ditch), when he acted as mayordomo , or ditch-manager. "This is a low-key account of interdependence and cooperation in an isolated community. . . . Crawford has written an elegant piece of Western Americana," praised PW .
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Crawford writes with concern about the potential effect of new water laws on a close-knit Hispanic community currently operating their irrigation ditch (or acequia) under traditional Spanish laws. Fed only by melting snow, the Acequia de la Jara is of central importance to the landowners in this hilly area of sparse rainfall, for their crops depend on it. Overseeing maintenance and fair usage of the ditch is thus crucial, and following a centuries-old custom Crawford was elected mayordomo to oversee its welfare. A lucid, finely detailed account of a way of life in Western America that may be coming to an end; winner of the 1988 Western States Book Award for creative nonfiction. Evelyn G. Callaway-Helm, Sun City Lib., Ariz.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 1996
Format: Paperback
In "Mayodomo" Stanley Crawford describes his experience as manager of an "acequia" or irrigation ditch system in arid northern New Mexico. The use of acequia-irrigation originated in Spain and was introduced to the desert Southwest by Franciscan monks over 300 years ago. Acequias feed from rivers or larger acequias, and from these larger tributaries water is run through farm land and orchards then back to the main source. Each year a manager (mayordomo) and three commissioners (comisiados) are democratically elected to oversee water rates and insure fair distribution of water to each "parciante" or landowner who farms along the ditch. Acequia association members are historically of Hispanic or Latino descent, so Crawford's anglo heritage creates an interesting viewpoint of an age old tradition.
As mayordomo Crawford supervises the annual spring clearing of his association's acequia, determines the amount of water that each parciante will receive, and is partially responcible for record keeping and payrolls. A parciante's share of water is determined by the nature of his plantings and for a larger part, the weather. As manager of his ditch Crawford must also contend with family feuding, annual dues or "delincuencias" and parciantes who "cheat" by diverting water to their lands.
Crawford's observations take more into account than the physical labor and political hierarchy associated with the maintenance of an acequia. His words create a meaningful perspective of life among the residents of an old northern New Mexican farming community and his story reveals a group of people that have been chronicled by few writers and generally ignored or forgotten by everyone else.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Far too many accounts of life in New Mexico are written by people with an agenda, often Anglos who came here to "find themselves" or "get back to the land" and were outraged when they discovered that reality wouldn't cooperate with their fantasies. By contrast, Stanley Crawford arrived with an open mind and integrated his family so successfully into a small, predominantly Hispanic village that he became the "mayordomo" in charge of administering the community's irrigation system. This book recounts his experiences and describes the workings of the community, in which the water system performs an important symbolic function as well as a practical one. It's well written, sometimes almost poetic, and often very funny. I think this and Crawford's "A Garlic Testament" are far and away the best books on life in rural New Mexico, and I recommend both of them unreservedly.
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Format: Paperback
In New Mexico today there are about 1000 acequias, or ditches, used for irrigation. Many date back well over one hundred years, most were originally dug by hand, and most are still maintained primarily by shovel and human muscle and sweat. Over the years, a communitarian and utilitarian system developed for the adminstration of acequias. One feature of that system was the election annually of a "mayordomo" or master of the ditch, who is responsible for making decisions affecting the allocation of water among the various properties along the course of the acequia; recruiting, supervising, and paying laborers to maintain the ditch; and, along with "commissioners", negotiating water allocation issues with neighboring acequias.

MAYORDOMO is a fascinating story of this system, as told by Stanley Crawford, an Anglo outsider who moved to Northern New Mexico around 1970 and began farming in the foothills of the Sangre de Christo Mountains of Northern New Mexico, something which he has continued to do up to now, selling his produce at, among other outlets, the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Crawford's property lay along one of nine acequias in a high mountain valley, and compelled by his dependence on the acequia for his fields and crops, he became involved in the traditional, largely Hispanic, system of water allocation. He eventually was elected mayordomo of his acequia (nearly by default, the job often entailing more headaches than it is worth in either pay or prestige). MAYORDOMO is the story of one year of his service in that role, from March 1985 to March 1986.

There are two principal aspects to the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
As Stanley Crawford points out in this wonderful book, those of us of a certain age were once admonished to work harder, or otherwise, we might sink to the very bottom of the social heap, and seemingly, one could go no lower than to become a "ditch digger." Although he does not mention it in this book, for a while he took the admonition seriously, obtaining his education from the University of Chicago and the Sorbonne. One might also assume that he had his "Tom Courtenay" moment, as in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner when he proved that he could succeed at the "game," but chucked it all anyway. Like some others at the time (the late `60's, early 70's) he sought refuge in one of the remote valleys of northern New Mexico, an hour or so north of Santa Fe. Unlike many of the others, who lingered only a season or two, he decided to put down roots, as it were, and, inter alia, become a ditch digger! Technically though, the Spanish word "Mayordomo" refers to the supervision of the ditch (in Spanish, acequia) diggers, but for sure, in a small work party, he had plenty of "hands-on" experience.

This is Crawford's account of his experience as the mayordomo of an acequia from March, 1985 to March, 1986. A low paid job, it is, and certainly there is a fair amount of frustration in managing the conflicting and competing interests of those in the community who benefit from the precious liquid that the acequia carries, bringing life to the desert. On the other hand, it is very real and meaningful work, in the natural world. Managing the physical labor and the allocation of this resource on a fair basis must be immensely satisfying, and one senses all of this from Crawford's account.
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