Studying Sonora

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Just weeks ago, the second annual Ethnographic Field School students and faculty arrived in Rio Sonora, ready to experience our shared borderlands via a creative cultural immersion co-presented with the UA’s Confluence Center and The Southwest Center.

The class discovered its sense of place in the town of Banamichi, Rio Sonora, exploring the environs deeply, and studying arts, traditional food preparations, ranching, history, agriculture and community. With time also set aside to siesta or meander, the class turned learning into a rich folklife experience, from harvesting nopales and drinking homemade agave juice, to exploring nooks and crannies of the reconstructed plaza and milking cows in Banamichi.

Throughout the field school, participants observed how water infuses the daily life of this agricultural valley running through the desert. In documenting the interplay between rural Sonora and its waters, a cultural sound-photo essay of a universal life symbol emerged. As Ofelia Zepeda’s Ka:Cim Su:DAGĭ suggests, the class “…touched this laying water, and then we left it alone.”

Rio Sonora sounds, both a mystery and memory
Audio clip collected early June, Bamori Mill — listen:

Nourishing an Arid Land
Lisa Falk: A long tradition in the Spanish Southwest, waters of the communal acequia (or ditch) system, nourish the fields. Each land owner receives a turn once every 15 days to draw the life-giving water channeled off from the Rio del Sonora. Here the water has filled the ditch and has begun to seep into the field through a hole dug in the mud wall. When the hole is plugged and the gate is released, the water will flow to the next section along the field.

Sustenance for Riparian Residents
Gambel's quail
Ann Reichhardt: The Gambel’s Quail is just one of over sixty species of birds seen the week of June 1 through June 6 in and around the riparian and farmlands of Banamichi, Sonora, Mexico. The dynamic riparian lands of the Sonora River are home to an impressive variety of bird life, and an important corridor during spring and fall migration.

A Thirsty Acequias Seeks Its Moisture
Bill Steen: The acequias that flow through the town of Banamichi have traditionally been fed by a spring called El Tajo, just north of town.This year, since there has been no rain since last summer, the spring is unable to supply the demand for irrigation water. Consequently the acequias are being supplied with three different wells on the edge of town.

And Block by Block, It Shelters Community
Hand-formed adobe bricks
Alex La Pierre: Hand forming adobe bricks with earth mixed with straw and moistened with water from the acequia on the Rio Sonora homestead of Stevan de la Rosa near Banamichi.


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