A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Editorial By Mark Schiller
Tierra Wools - Community Development in Action By Kay Matthews
Santa Barbara Restoration Project Update By Mark Schiller
Norteños Claim National Policies of Environmental Groups Discriminate Against Minorities and Fail to Protect Resources
Norteño environmentalists and community activists assembled at the State Capitol in Santa Fe on September 21 to denounce the absolutist policies of national environmental groups that discriminate against the people of northern New Mexico. Specifically, the group chastised the Sierra Club, whose endorsement of a no commercial logging on public lands policy has created disagreement within its own local rank and file, the Santa Fe Group. Many of these members have expressed to the national that this initiative is inappropriate in New Mexico, where heavily overstocked forests are in desperate need of thinning, and small operators in forest dependent communities are engaged in sustainable, commercial forestry. Several norteño Sierra Club members publicly resigned from the club to demonstrate their opposition to the no-logging policy.
Many of these activists have been complaining for years about policies like Zero Cut and Zero Cows on public lands, which are being endorsed by groups like Forest Guardians, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, and now the Sierra Club. Single-issue initiatives like these fail to differentiate between corporate abuse and local, sustainable use that keeps people on the land by maintaining rural livelihoods. Last year, these activists joined together in ad hoc coalition to work with the Santa Fe Group on community projects such as the proposed the Agua/Caballos timber sale in the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, the Santa Barbara Grazing Association Restoration in Peñasco, and to protect and maintain acequia water rights.
The decision to quit the club and go public about the internal debate over national policy was made after the chapter and national Sierra Club censured comments supporting the preferred Forest Service alternative on the Agua/Caballos timber sale submitted by George Grossman, a member of the Santa Fe Group (see August issue of La Jicarita). "These actions reveal the hierarchical and compartmentalized structure of the club that is the antithesis of grassroots and community-based organizing, " the group (which refers to itself generically - and humorously - as "El Grupo") claimed in its press release.
Those active in the group - watershed protection advocates, public lands management watchdogs, acequia parciantes, land grant activists, writers, foresters, and poverty lawyers - feel that their's is a unique and powerful group because of its diversity and holistic approach to reconciling human-nature issues. They will continue to work with community people and environmentalists who engage in meaningful dialogue and on-the-ground projects that develop rural livelihoods and provide good stewardship of the land. Specifically, they will continue to work with the Forest Service on the Agua Caballos proposed timber sale: A new preferred alternative will be released in October, which reflects previous input and new information regarding the road inventory in the sale area. Members of the group will also speak out and condemn racist and elitist actions of environmental groups whose policies negatively impact the integrity of rural communities.
Virgil Trujillo, ranch manager of Ghost Ranch, will be leading a tour at the ranch focusing on cattle rotation, range ecology, biodiversity, electric fencing, history, and culture on Friday, October 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Virgil employs holistic and innovative cattle management techniques on the ranch and is a board member of the Quivira Coalition. The public is invited to attend. Take US 84 past Abiquiu toward Chama; the ranch entrance will be on your right, a few miles past Abiquiu dam. Bring water, food, a hat, and sunscreen. For more information call Virgil at 685-4333.
The first annual Health & Wellness Fair will be held at Picuris Pueblo on Saturday, October 9, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The fair will offer the following free and discounted services: domestic water test (bring a quart in a clean glass or plastic container); fasting-blood work (no food after 9 p.m. the previous night) or a $5 voucher for other blood-work from Health Centers Peñasco Clinic; blood pressure test; blood glucose test; information and prizes. Booths are available, free of charge, for farmers markets and arts and crafts. Picuris Pueblo Dancers and the Peñasco High School Mariachi Band will provide entertainment. The fair is sponsored by a large coalition of agencies who want to share resources to provide good health care information: Picuris Planning, Environmental and Community Health departments; Peñasco Independent Schools; Health Centers of New Mexico Peñasco Clinic; Holy Cross Peñasco Clinic; Taos/Colfax Community Services; Casa de Corazon; St. Anthony Parish Religious Educator; Taos County Public Health; Taos/ Picuris Indian Health Center; Peñasco School Health Advisory Committee; and Mountain Management. For more information call 1-800-860-7087 or 689-2361.
The application by the County of Santa Fe to transfer water rights from Top of the World Farms (near the New Mexico-Colorado border) to the county via an infiltration gallery located on San Ildefonso Pueblo was protested last year by parciantes, acequias, and Amigos Bravos. The protestants raised issues of impairment, water conservation, and public welfare at a prehearing conference held on March 4, 1999, at which time it was discovered that some of the water rights were under disputed ownership by Wrangler Properties and the four individuals applying to transfer them. The State Engineer hearing officers ordered that this "threshold" issue must be resolved before another prehearing - the forum for the applicant and protestants to clarify issues, explore settlement, and establish time frames for a hearing on the transfer - could be scheduled.
This summer rumors circulated that Tom Worrell of Taos, whose many land and historic properties acquisitions have created controversy in the community (his private residence was burned down as a result of arson), had purchased Top of the World Farms. This purchase was confirmed when lawyers for the protestants received copies of deeds verifying that in June a Worrell-owned company called Macho Grande de Rio Grande Ltd., a British Virgin Islands company, had indeed purchased 3,166 acres of land from Wrangler Properties. Unfortunately, Macho Grande subsequently signed a quitclaim deed to the disputed water rights being transferred to Santa Fe County, opening the door for the water transfer to proceed. According to a spokesperson at Dharma Properties, Worrell's Taos-based company, the intent of the purchase of Top of the World Farms was to "keep the water rights in Taos County." Why the company then signed off on the disputed water rights is the $64,000 question.
A second prehearing on the transfer application was held on September 24. Peter White and Doug Wolf, lawyers for many of the parciantes and acequia protestants, raised other threshold issues that have not yet been addressed by the county, which include questions as to whether rights that would be used are ground or surface water; questions as to the place of use; lack of a county water conservation plan; questions regarding the technical and financial feasibility of an infiltration gallery; and issues of access on Pueblo land.
The protestants were directed to submit these issues by brief within 30 days. The county then has 30 days to respond. A hearing was scheduled for September of the year 2000 to address the substantive issues of impairment, conservation, and public welfare that the protestants will raise. There are questions concerning the effects of historic pumping on the surface flows of the Rio Grande; the lack of a county conservation plan; and issues of public welfare such as moving water rights out of areas of origin, the impact on traditional agricultural uses, and moving junior water rights from the upper basin to the middle basin.
The Second Annual Acequia Festival, sponsored by the Taos Valley Acequia Association, has more bands, more events, and an even bigger and more expensive truck to be raffled than last year, which by all accounts was a huge success. The October 10th event (Sunday) at the Anglada Community Center on Kit Carson Road will be hosted by everyone's favorite master of ceremonies, Larry Torres, along with Billy Archuleta. The popular band Mezcal headlines at 5:30; other entertainment will be provided by the Martin Martinez Trio, Danza Azteca, Los Alegres de Taos, Seco Path, Jimmy Stadler & Colliders, Frank Marcus Indian Dancers, the Cullen Winter Blues Band, and Mariachi El Tigre. The focus of this year's festival is young adults, and many activities will be geared toward educating and entertaining young people. Events begin at 12:00 p.m. and conclude with the grand prize drawing at 7:30 p.m. for a 1999 Dodge 4x4 pickup (there will be many other prizes as well). There is no entry fee this year, and various vendors will supply food and drink.
This year another dimension has been added to the festival to make it a weekend event: an Acequia Conference, hosted in conjunction with the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA). Beginning with registration at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning at the Taos County Agricultural Center, 202 Chamisa Road, the morning session will focus on education: Dr. Michael Meyers of the University of Arizona on the history of acequia adjudications; Dr. José Rivera of the University of New Mexico on sustaining acequia agriculture; Ted Apodaca of the Office of the State Engineer on legal problems faced by acequias; and Don López, Office of the State Engineer, on acequia rehabilitation programs.
In the afternoon session invited acequia parciantes will discuss NMAA reorganization plans and legislative strategies for the coming year.
Human rights groups monitoring the situation in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas are reporting that the Mexican government has amassed over 20,000 military troops in the area. They assert that under the guise of protecting crews who are paving utility roads into the Lacandon jungle, the government is actually preparing to attack Zapatista rebel strongholds in the area. Corporate interests would like to proceed with the business of exploiting the oil-rich area without the distraction of dealing with indigenous people who have an aboriginal right to the land. Observers have already documented numerous human rights violations in the area, and a full-blown confrontation will result in the wholesale slaughter of thousands of people whose only crime is trying to maintain their land and culture.
The indigenous communities of northern New Mexico are also under siege. Land grant lands have been misappropriated, and wood gathering, grazing, and hunting rights essential to the maintenance of land-based communities have been abrogated. Now, the downstream municipalities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces, and special interests such as Intel and developed recreation (skiing and rafting) are mounting an assault through the courts and legislature on el norte's most precious resource, water. By claiming that the "highest and best" use of this resource is whatever is most economically remunerative, they are "paving" the way for water to be transferred more easily and cheaply from its area of origin and agricultural purpose of use. Short-sighted, absolutist environmental groups are also playing into the hands of these interests by claiming acequia water use threatens the health of our rivers.
The economic commodification of water is completely contrary to the way Native American and Indo-Hispano communities have traditionally valued water. Land-based people understand that water is the lifeblood of the land from which they draw their material and spiritual sustenance. Short-term economic windfalls cannot compensate people for the loss of richness of life that dates back generations. So it is not simply the value of a resource which is being called into question, it is the value of a way of life which contradicts the hyper-materialism of the global economy. That's why the battle being fought over water in northern New Mexico is inextricably entwined with the battles being fought in Chiapas, the northwest United States over Native American fishing rights, in East Timor, in India, and in South America. In fact, every community that is fighting Wal-Martization, Disneyfication, Microsoftification, and virtualization is fighting this same battle.
In 1951, while living in southern Mexico, the poet Charles Olson, wrote an essay titled "Human Universe" in which he said: "I have been living for some time amongst a people who are directly the descendants of a culture and a civilization which was a contrary of that which we have known and of which we are the natural children. When I am rocked by roads against any of them - kids, women, men - their flesh is most gentle, is granted, touch is in no sense anything but the natural law of flesh, there is none of that pull-away which, in the States, causes a man for all the years of his life the deepest sort of questioning of the rights of himself to the wild reachings of his own organism. The admission these people give me and one another is direct, and the individual who peers out from that flesh is precisely himself. . . . It is so very beautiful how human eyes are when the flesh is not worn so close it chokes." He went on to say: ". . . When men are not able to manage a means of expression the equal of nature's intricacy, the flesh does choke. The notion of fun comes to displace work as what we are here for. Spectatorism crowds out participation as the condition of culture. Passivity conquers all. To say that in America the goods are as the fruits, and the people as the goods, all glistening but tasteless, accomplishes nothing in itself, for the overwhelming fact is, that the rest of the world wants nothing but to be the same. Value is perishing from the earth because no one cares to fight down to it beneath the glowing surfaces so attractive to all."
Land-based people are the last inhabitants of the human universe, "the last first people," the last barrier to the abject passivity globalization is promoting throughout the world. We must not allow their communities to be "paved over."
By Kay Matthews
The big red letters of "Tierra Wools" on a pitched tin roof let you know you've arrived in Los Ojos, one of the cluster of villages that surround Rio Arriba County seat, Tierra Amarilla. Here, in a beautifully restored old mercantile building, Los Ojos Hand- weavers sell the products of their art and craft, their place and culture: tapestries, blankets, rugs, pillows, hand-dyed yarns, and apparel. Organized as a for-profit, limited liability company in 1996, Tierra Wools employs 35 people and is the hub of various other enterprises that promote and maintain the area's agricultural base.
Tierra Wools began business as part of Ganados del Valle in the early 1980s. This non-profit enterprise, inspired by the vision and efforts of Antonio Manzanares and Maria Varela, began as a wool cooperative that raised sheep and developed markets for finished wool products. Agricultural support programs with a revolving loan fund enabled Ganados to help the small sheep herders in the area who supplied the wool for the weavers. Tierra Wools grew out of the cooperative's "wool committee," and originally intended to market hand-spun wool by mail order. Then, with the advice of Taos weaver Rachael Brown, who was helping some of the local women learn to weave, they decided to use the wool in their own weavings and market them locally. The old mercantile building came up for sale, and with a combination of grants and loans Ganados bought the building in 1983 and Tierra Wools moved in.
As Molly Manzanares, wife of Antonio Manzanares and one of the orginal Tierra Wools weavers, puts it, "Things snowballed from there." Brown continued to come to Los Ojos to lend her expertise, and was eventually hired to write a curriculum that would address the gaps in some of the weavers' skills that prevented them from becomming knowledgeable in all areas of running a weaving store, from the craft end to the business end.
While Tierra Wools was building its business, local sheep growers began developing the traditional Churro sheep line that supplied wool to the weavers, along with the Rambouillet and Columbia lines. The weavers also maintained tradition with the Rio Grande style blankets and rugs they produced, but were free to experiment and develop styles that addressed market needs. While under the auspices of Ganados, weavers were paid by the piece, and those who produced the most became members of the cooperative.
By the mid-1990s many of the Tierra Wool weavers felt it was time to strike out on their own as a for-profit business. They formed a limited liability company, in which management control remains with the worker/ owners, and in December of 1996 paid off their commitment to Ganados del Valle. Seventeen worker/owners paid an initial investment to the company and committed a certain amount of work time. In return, they share in 50% of the profit or loss, based on their amount of production. The other 50% of the profit or loss goes to the investors. The company also periodically receives grant money, and were recently awarded an RDC partnership grant (with area lamb growers and wool washers) which is enabling them to enclose and winterize their dying shed. Molly Manzanares is the general manager, and Robin Collier is the financial manager.
"I'm always amazed at how many people have been with us since the very beginning," Manzanares says - "Angie Serrano, Kika Chavez, Nena Russom, Sophia Chavez, and Johanna Terrazas. As hard as it's been, people want to stay on. I left for awhile but came back because I can make money and continue to ranch, which is always what I've wanted to do." Manzanares showed us the special-order rug she is currently weaving, wondering where she was going to find the time to create something for the Second Annual Master Weavers Exhibit on October 11.
All of the weavers are busy with their own work as well as the newest additions to their growing business: student programs and organic knitting yarns dyed with native plants. Tierra Wools purchased the building next door, The Casita, and operates it as a guest house for vis-itors and students who participate in their year-round, week-long programs that focus on all aspects of weaving: hand-spinning, dying, tapestry, etc. Students work alongside experienced weavers. Antonio Manzanares was recently certified as an organic sheep grower, and his Rambouillet flock supplies the organic knitting yarns that are being dyed with native plants: yerba de la negrita; lichen; cota, juniper; evening primrose; curly dock; mullein; black walnut and many others.
The Tierra Wools store was full of visitors and students the day of our visit, testimony to the hard work of the organizers, weavers, workers, and supporters who have invested in a company that is dedicated to keeping people on the land and in their communities.
By Mark Schiller
On September 28 representatives of the Santa Barbara Grazing Association, the Forest Service (FS), New Mexico Environment Department, The Conservation Fund, the Quivira Coalition, and the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition made a field trip to observe and discuss the allotment rehabilitation program. The ambitious proposal for this project includes thinning to reduce forest density, prescribed burning to improve understory and watershed conditions, establishing a wildfire plan for the area, fencing to keep livestock out of sensitive riparian areas, aspen regeneration, restoration of a historic wetland, meadow maintenance, and establishing permanent monitoring plots to track ecosystem response.
The project, however, has been hampered by bad weather, FS personnel turnover, and lack of manpower. To date, the FS has thinned approximately 290 acres. Steve Miranda, the new range management officer on the Camino Real Ranger District, and Greg Miller of the Carson Supervisor's Office, told the group that the FS is going to prioritize the project and pick up the pace. A three-man crew from Picuris Forestry Program has recently been hired to help, and Wilbert Rodriguez of the FS told the group he hoped to have a FS crew working five days a week until the weather becomes inclement. The areas that had been thinned by forestry crews and through the community firewood program showed a marked contrast to adjacent, untreated areas. Canopy density had been reduced, and grasses and forbs were thriving.
Participants discussed several ideas to increase community participation in the fuelwood program, including sales of one-acre blocks within the project. This would entail FS crews marking leave trees and community members cutting all other trees within the block for their own use. This strategy has already been employed successfully through the Contract Stewardship Program in the Entrañas area.
Steve Miranda and Will Barnes of The Conservation Fund told the group they will be going to the Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces October 4-6 for a training session. The Jornada, a division of the USDA, has devised a state-of-the-art monitoring program that will be implemented within the project. They explained that the antiquated Parker three-step method only monitored ground and forage conditions, while the Jornada method monitors conditions at all levels, from subsurface ground to the top of the forest canopy. The group hopes to discuss location of the monitoring plots soon after Will and Steve have completed their training.
Wilbert Rodriguez also discussed the use of dirt catchment basins in small drainages. This would create upland water resources in the newly thinned areas to keep cattle out of riparian areas. He explained that this can be accomplished quickly and cheaply in areas where the soil holds water.
Finally, the group discussed establishing a work schedule for the project which would be regularly reviewed by the shareholders.
This year's High Road to Taos Art Tour featured arts and crafts from Córdova - the Castillo Gallery - to Placita, where Gonzales Arts showed carvings, pottery, santos, and retablos, and the J. Chris Morel Studio showed landscape paintings. Sponsored by participatory artists and La Jicarita Enterprise (with the invaluable help of Jane Cook), the tour attracted a steady stream of visitors along the famous high road.
At Las Trampas, various artists set up their booths around the three permanent plaza shops that carry local arts and crafts as well as Native American jewelry, kachinas and pottery, weavings, painting, milagros, books, and clothing: La Tiendita; Casa de Lopez; and the Milagro Curio Shop. The Durland family business Cayuga Sheepskin sold their beautifully made fleece slippers, baby booties, hats, and vests. Their neighbor Alberto Attanasio sold beaded bottles, containers, and necklaces. Another neighbor, Emmy Koponen, displayed assorted artwork: photographs, pencil drawings, watercolors, card packets, and willow baskets.
Vicki Sanchez of Ojo Sarco, "Crafts by Vicki," sold crocheted dolls, barrettes, leather-tooled key-chains, wreaths, etc. Ron Boyd of Buffalo Mox, a favorite at last year's tour, displayed his beautifully crafted leather mocassins - beaded, soled, silver buttoned - on the tree outside La Tiendita. And Fran Wimberley of Chamisal displayed her silver and stone jewelry - lapiz, turquoise, coral, onyx - outside Casa de Lopez. She also shows her work in galleries in Peñasco, Embudo, and Taos.
There was food and entertainment to support the artisans. Noami Atencio, Rosa Rodriguez, Monica Sanchez, and Lucille Arguello served burritos and chile from the Taste of Trampas kitchen. La Escuelita Express served hamburgers and hot dogs in front of the old Trampas schoolhouse (John Collier pictures from 1943 showed students in their old classroom), which is being converted to a community center. The profits from the food sales and a raffle will go directly into the community center fund and will be matched with a grant of up to $1,200 by the McCune Charitable Foundation. The community has been working to rehabilitate the building but lacks funds for the necessary finish work: electrical rewiring, painting, etc. Anyone who would like to help the community in their fund-raising efforts can call Bonafacio López, 689-2222.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.