Acequia-based agriculture in Hispanic northern New Mexico originated with the arrival of settlers from the central valley of Mexico in the late sixteenth century and later following the Camino Real into the upper Río Grande and its tributaries. The high desert environment required irrigation for food production and survival. Land parcels in the rural villages of northern New Mexico were small, and crop yields were limited to home consumption on a subsistence basis, an economy that lasted well into the territorial period and statehood of New Mexico. Despite a wage economy introduced with the arrival of the railroad around 1880 and intensified by rural outmigration in the aftermath of World War II, subsistence agriculture in many Hispanic villages persisted into the 1950s. Today, the descendant families hold onto the land base of the ancestors for the heritage and lifestyle values more so than for monetary benefits, a connection that also maintains the original values of mutuality and interdependence among neighbors in the community.
Rivera, José A., Ph.D. "Land Rich, Cash Poor: Hispanic Subsistence Agri-Culture on Acequia Farms of Northern New Mexico, 1880-1950s." (2022)