UNM Filmmaker’s Acequia Documentary Premieres at the National Hispanic Cultural Center: UNM Newsroom

Agua es vida.

Water is life.

Aracely Chapa

Arcie Chapa

In a new documentary, Arcie Chapa, award-winning film director and manager of multimedia services at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Regional Studies, examines the lifeblood of communities in northern New Mexico Acequias – The legacy lives on. The film, presented by UNM’s Center for Regional Studies in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center, will premiere on Saturday, January 28 at the NHCC.

The event begins at 6pm with an hors d’oeuvres reception, followed by the film premiere at 7pm and a panel discussion at 8pm. The event is free. Register for tickets here.

“The History of New Mexico acequias has always been a film I’ve wanted to produce since I moved to New Mexico in 1998. When I first learned that this historic water distribution system of over 700 acequias was still irrigating and nourishing the arid New Mexico landscape,” Chapa said. The Chicago family hails from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which also has its own acequia system. “I used to swim in it as a kid in the summer.”

Life-giving water sparkles as it flows through the ditches and the New Mexico landscape glows in this beautiful documentary about the permanence of the Land of Enchantment acequias as seen through the eyes of farmers, advocates, scholars, practitioners and members Acequia communities. Chapa produced and directed an emotional and reverential tribute to acequias past, present and future.

Look the follower.

Chapa has over 30 years of experience in broadcast journalism and has held positions as anchor, reporter, news director and executive producer of documentaries. She was the host and executive producer of New Mexico’s PBS weekly public affairs show In focusas well as the KUMM call-in show. She has won multiple awards, including the prestigious National Press Club Award for investigative environmental reporting and five Emmy Awards for documentaries. A selection of her films includes the trilogy of Emmy-nominated films that commemorate UNM’s turbulent history and significant anniversary milestones with the title [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].

Chapa noticed that acequias are unique to New Mexico.

“No other state in the country has what we have. We tend to take things for granted that we’ve seen our entire lives, but the Acequia System shouldn’t be one of those things.”

This has been shown in a dry state, in which every drop of water is examined and traced acequias ensure replenishment of groundwater systems as water seeps into the ground beneath the river. For over 400 years, acequias have been used continuously and remain important in understanding New Mexico history.

With financial support from UNM’s Center for Regional Studies, the film provides historical context and unfolds through a series of storylines, including the acequias‘ Current challenges such as climate change and water rights transfer, their important role in the development of local food sheds and the economic opportunities they offer to members of rural communities.

“The New Mexico Acequia Story is the story of the history of New Mexico. They go hand in hand,” Chapa said. “Some say that climate change and development pressures make their extinction inevitable; others believe there is still time to protect them for future generations. I am so fortunate that I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people who showed me the beauty of the land and spoke so passionately about their dreams for the Acequia communities of New Mexico. It’s safe to say that New Mexico’s beautiful, lush valleys and cultural traditions emerged from the United States acequias.”

Chapa hopes that all people who love our beautiful state will get a chance to see the film. She plans to show it at multiple locations across the state, including the upcoming 2023 Land and Water Summit. She hopes this film will help people gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of New Mexico acequias.

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