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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Where the Water Turns: Water and Cultural Memory in the Sierra Madre Foothills
by Eklund, Elizabeth Marie, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2020, 214; 28022438
Abstract (Summary)

From headwaters near Cananea, the Río Sonora drains the lower foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains in the far northwest of Mexico. The river’s path is obstructed by a rocky outcropping, on top of which sits the town of Banámichi, whose name means, “where the water turns” in Ópata. In this segment of the valley, the river frequently does not flow above the surface and the fields, or milpas, are irrigated with water that flows through gravity powered canals from a spring north of town. Early reports from the failed Narváez and Coronado expeditions all describe an agriculturally productive region somewhere in Northwest Mexico, along the rivers of Sonora. The town itself traces to 1639 and has remained agricultural since then, even as grazing and mining interests have become major industries. Local residents today often share water stories attributed to ancestral traditions of canal irrigation. This dissertation looks at the tradition of flood water farming in Northern Mexico across two registers: as a signifying device that shapes community pride and identity and as an occupational practice that relies on shifting schemas of Traditional Knowledge (TK). This project reveals that contemporary water managers in Banámichi narrate their path forward out of recurrent and improvised elements from the past. The continued maintenance of traditional gravity powered irrigation in the face of environmental hazards and political and economic changes is linked to dual ecological advantages and symbolic constructions. On one hand, the use of canal irrigation is particularly well suited to the uneven rainfall of the Sierra Madres. On the other hand, the deployment of social memory and traditional beliefs show a great capacity to withstand disruptions caused by political and environmental forces outside the town’s control and even grow stronger from them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Alvarez, Maribel
Commitee: Park, Thomas K., Brescia, Michael M., Blake, Emma C.
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Cultural memory, Ecology, Water
Publication Number: 28022438
ISBN: 9798662401563
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