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Santa Fe Neighborhood Quick Sketch: Acequia Madre

The very phrase Acequia Madre–Mother Ditch–suggests something rough and elemental: a primordial slash in the earth from which life springs.  Yet Acequia Madre is one of the priciest streets in Santa Fe.  But then that’s Santa Fe, where mud homes on dirt roads are prime real estate. A few minutes’ stroll will convince you of the neighborhood’s charm. Softly curved walls, aged Mexican doors with weathered paint, cascades of wisteria and drowsy willows: this road that run along the eponymous  waterway—and parallels famed Canyon Road– is iconic Eastside Santa Fe.  Romantic and time bound.

Acequias have an extensive and proud history in New Mexico. Check out the website for the New Mexico Acequia Association to learn more about this cooperative tradition of water use. Area residents, and other lovers of the nationally registered historic Mother Ditch, gather each year to dredge out natural and civilization-generated debris.  The New Mexican’s article, Annual Acequia Madre cleaning celebrates four centuries tells the story of the 2010 Spring clean.

The neighborhood school, Acequia Madre Elementary,  has a reputation for solid academics, good teachers and strong parent involvement. Read up on Acequia Madre at GreatSchools.org. Due to Santa Fe Public School budget cuts, however, Acequia Madre is slated to be closed and its students relocated to nearby Atalaya Elementary. Read the Santa Fe New Mexican story at Board Approves Consolidation Plan; Acequia Madre Gets One Year Reprieve

While I depend on the City-Data.com websites for quality, statistic-based info on city neighborhoods, their classification of the Acequia Madre neighborhood is a head scratcher. According to City-Data, Gonzales marks the western boundary of the Acequie [sic] Madre neighborhood, Cerro Gordo, the northern, and Alameda, the southern.  The eastern boundary might be Camino Pequeno, but is unclearly defined. Acequia Madre itself falls partly in the so-called Historic neighborhood , partly in Los Vecinos de Calle San Antonio

To my mind, the neighborhood runs the length of Acequia Madre from Paseo de Peralta to Camino del Monte Sol.  Streets that spur off Acequia Madre are, in some cases, their own communities.  More on those in another post.

The largest cluster of amenities near the neighborhood are found in the small complex of businesses at the intersection of Garcia, Acequia Madre and Arroyo Tenorio.  Downtown Subscription the local coffee hangout, sits between the excellent Photo-Eye Bookstore and Gallery and the intelligently stocked independent bookstore, Garcia Street Books.  We have found incredible treasures browsing their shelves and tables of these two bastions of local culture.  Read the Garcia Street Books Newsletter for word on booksignings and benefit events. Visit the Photo-Eye website for info on new arrivals, auctions, gallery shows and more.

Years ago, I traded my plant knowledge and landscaping labor for voice lessons from a woman who coached opera singers and hopefuls and whose husband had been Dean and a tutor at St. John’s College.  That experiential cluster of garden, song and education remains for me a fair poetic representation of the spirit of the Acequia Madre neighborhood.

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