Cerro is an unincorporated community in Taos County, New Mexico, and is situated near New Mexico State Highway 522 heading north to the Colorado border. Nearby is Cerro de Guadalupe, a peak that has an elevation of 8,796 feet and Cerro at 7,490 feet. The connection to Guadalupe Mountain gave the town its original name as “La Plaza del Cerro de Guadalupe.” Cerro was established in the early 1850s by settlers who arrived from nearby Questa and Taos. By itself, Guadalupe Mountain did not provide sufficient water to sustain an agrarian economy based on farming and livestock ranching as was the case in the Taos Valley and other mountain villages of northcentral New Mexico. The mesa surrounding Cerro consists of a high sagebrush desert suitable only for grazing or dry land farming. With no natural water source, the settlers responded by building their own river. They commandeered the Rito Latir at the base of Latir Peak on the northeast, diverting and bending its course southerly to then capture the flows of three other smaller creeks along the way, Rito Jaroso, Rito del Medio and Rito Primero, resulting in the acequia madre (main irrigation ditch) for the community. Later, they formed a water users’ corporation influenced by the mutual aid societies already existing in the region, producing a hybrid form of organization combining the prototypical community acequia with a mutual protective association aimed at defending land and water rights. This article provides the social and economic context that gave rise to land and water and protective societies in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado with a focus on the Mutual Protection and Mutual Benefit Association organized at La Plaza del Cerro.
Rivera, José A. Ph.D. "The Town that Built its Own River: La Plaza del Cerro at Taos County New Mexico." (2023). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/arch_fsp/9