I’m not the first one to make a movie about the matachines dances in San Antonio, New Mexico. The event has been well documented on local television and by museums in the area. “But,” as San Antonio’s mayordomo Chris Jinzo would say, “it goes back even further.”
San Antonio was featured in John Ford’s Grape’s of Wrath and there is even a rumor that Thomas Edison came up this side of the mountain to shoot some footage after filming Indian Day school. Today a rich movie making tradition continues along the Turquoise Trail.
Before there were cameras, there were drawings. During the Civil War, the South planned to secure the vast mining network of America’s frontier territories. The campaign culminated in one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles at Glorieta Pass, dubbed “The Gettysburg of the West.” Along the way, Confederates stayed a night in San Antonio and one soldier sketched the Sandia’s gentle, slopping peaks.
Before American illustrators, the Spanish mapped out the outposts along the Camino Real, including the ojo grande water source at San Antonio. The pueblo and plains Indians have marked the land with pottery shards scattered in the earth, matates carved into the ridge, tipi rings in the meadows, and arrowheads in the shadow boxes of local collectors. Further up the hill, the leftovers of the prehistoric Sandia Man‘s dinner once littered a cave.
All of these artifacts are here because the water is here. The purity and flow of the little stream behind San Antonio church runs because of hundreds if not a thousand years of stewardship. Even as encroaching development endangers this precious natural resource, ancient forces have been successful in preserving the acequia.
“No man steps in the same river twice,” Heraclitus wisely remarked. The ojito may look the same as when our ancestors first encountered it, but it is still evolving, continuing to be shaped by human impact over time. What will its future hold?
This movie Acequia captures a nostalgic moment in time for me. In the background of some of these scenes I can see and hear my parents and neighbors participating in the day’s festivities. These are the mountains of my youth and where I return to whenever I run out of green chile. I’ve since grown up and moved away from the area. Like so many who have rested at this spot, it turns out that I was just passing through. I’m may not be of this place, but after drinking from the stream, part of me will forever remain under the shady cottonwoods of the ojito. I hope that this movie will continue advocate for the preservation of the acequia at San Antonio. My wish is that it remains the way I remember it for several generations to come.