Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Acequia World Heritage Project

Program Description

We at IBSG believe that New Mexico is rich in global heritage. From the Manhattan project to the beautiful Taos Pueblo, New Mexico consistently thinks, acts, and operates with global urgencies.
The traditional acequia systems of this region are among those cultural artifacts that deserve to be recognized as a meaningful part of the world’s sacred heritage. Sustainable agriculture will serve as the pinnacle of global politics in the 21st century, and as such, IBSG is interested in participating in UNM’s current association with the New Mexico Acequia Association to construct a UNESCO World Heritage Area application. Much work has been done by both the NMAA and UNM professors to chronicle the uniqueness of New Mexico’s acequias. Our mission at IBSG is to allow students to contribute to this process by placing the acequia systems in the context of the geo-political economy. Several of these components include:
  1. How the intangible features of the acequia system are a historical marker of the development of a global agricultural economy.
  2. How agricultural direct investment (also known as “land grabs”) affect food sovereignty, and how acequias protect land practices and achieve food sovereignty.
  3. How food is a global resource, challenging the ways that national or regional policies can effectively deal with issues that may eventually become a global necessity.
  4. To demonstrate that the acequias have contributed to the development of a distinct geo-political discourse, one that needs to be protected and appreciated in order to protect the common heritage of all humankind.
Our mission in 2011 is to produce 3-4 briefs as final reports to a group of stakeholders, after discussion, collaboration, and intensive research. These 3-4 briefs will be included in the final UNESCO report, which we will help submit, hopefully within the next 2 years.

IBSG Acequia/UNESCO project Primer

In order to get people familiarized with UNESCO and the world heritage area project, I have compiled the following:
  1. Explain the process
  2. Identifies the expertise at UNM that we must collaborate with
  3. Give examples of a successful project

The Process

UNESCO’s site is right here for easy reference: Lists of world heritage area sites
Description of the criteria for a world heritage area site:
From the convention text
The selection criteria are:
Until the end of 2004, there were six criteria for cultural heritage and four criteria for natural heritage. In 2005, this was modified so that there is only one set of ten criteria. Nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the ten criteria.
Cultural criteria
  • “represents a masterpiece of human creative genius”
  • “exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design”
  • “bears a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared”
  • “is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history”
  • “is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change”
  • “is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance”
Natural criteria
  • “contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”
  • “is an outstanding example representing major stages of Earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features”
  • “is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems, and communities of plants and animals”
  • “contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation”

The expertise at UNM

There are many potential people that we could and should collaborate with at UNM. Some of them are essential for our success, because it is their leadership that has brought acequia culture to the forefront of UNM’s research, and they have also undertaken efforts to begin the UNESCO application. Most of these scholars have done so despite incredible obligations to other important projects, and as such, we should view ourselves as a key support network to their work and not perceive ourselves as undertaking a new initiative. By taking on a collaborative strategy, we respect their work and allow ourselves to access the necessary expertise to make this project become a success.
Who we know:
Dr. Enrique Lamadrid (lamadrid@unm.edu) is chair of the Spanish and Portuguese department. He was also the person responsible for working with the New Mexico Acequia Association in developing a resolution that permitted the NMAA to serve as the nominating body for the initial UNESCO process. He has written extensively on related issues and is a quintessential part of this process.
Dr. Gabriel Melendez (gabriel@unm.edu) is chair of the American Studies program. Like Dr. Lamadrid, his work is quintessentially involved in the preservation of acequia culture, and his studies have developed several sustainability initiatives that revolve around the UNESCO concept.
Dr. Jose Rivera (jrivera@unm.edu) has worked with UNM for many years and currently is affiliated with the Center for Regional Studies. He recently published a book on acequia culture which has just been translated into Spanish and is very popular in Spain. La cultura de la acequia
Here is a youtube video where he talks about this book:

Paula Garcia and the New Mexico Acequia Association are the integral piece to this. They are the official nominators of the UNESCO project, and Paula as director would be the fundamental person who will sign an agreement with us for a scope of work. Here is their website so that you may familiarize yourself with them: New Mexico Acequia Association
Thomas Glick is one of the world’s experts on medieval technologies, including agricultural technologies that are the direct ancestors of the acequia culture we see in New Mexico. He works with UNM closely, and will return for a lecture in the near future: Thomas Glick
What we need to know:
You will also find attached as a pdf document a newsletter that describes (in Spanish) the celebration of world culture as it relates to water. Here is the description in English: World Water Day Celebration
We also need to be aware of the United States’ role with UNESCO. The US has had a strange relationship with UNESCO for many different reasons. What you need to know is that in 1984, the US withdrew from the UNESCO charter, and only rejoined in 2003.
This is the entity set up to establish relations with UNESCO U.S. National Commission for UNESCO
More on the subject: About the U.S. and UNESCO

An example of a successful project

Here is a link to a successful application for the Parmeral de Elche: El Palmeral de Elche
All in all, this should be an excellent primer for anyone interested in participating in our contribution to the UNESCO project. I am committed to seeing this become a reality, and I think that given the expertise and support available, we can make this a reality.

Program Managers

Sara Beltran-Caro