The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 25, July 1921 - April, 1922

Early Irrigation in Texas

EARLY IRRIGATION IN TEXAS
EDWIN P. ARNESON
Irrigation is the art of watering crops by artificial means. The
earliest known practice of this art in Texas took place in the
extreme western part of the state. In the present El Paso region
are irrigation ditches that were dug by the Indians under the
direction of the Spanish padres as early as the latter half of the
seventeenth century. Many of these old canals can easily be
traced today. Near Ysleta, below El Paso, are several irrigation
systems, which were built by the Pueblo. Indians after 1680, in
which year, as a result of the great Indian rebellion in New Mexico,
the Ysleta pueblos were located at the present Ysleta, Texas.
These irrigation systems have been used continuously since then.
However, the native Texas Indian was no empire builder, and as
an independent worker he was not a great factor in the permanent
conquering of the arid wilderness of Texas. The Spaniard was
destined to do that. And he was particularly fitted for the task.
The conquistadores, who exploited the Spanish Main, were, for
the most part, recruited from that central plateau of Spain, en-
deared to the readers of Don Quixote as "La Mancha." "La
Mancha" means the Blot. It is an extremely dry country which
is able to support its population only when the utmost care is exer-
cised in the conservation and use of the scanty rainfall. Respect
for water is bred in the bone of the Spaniard, and, while his pro-
fession may have been arms abroad, his occupation at home was
agriculture.
It is a far cry from the Mission canals and fields of San Antonio
to Cordoba, to Yemen, and to Bagdad. Yet, that retraces, roughly,
the steps by which the semi-arid vicinity of San Antonio became
a garden spot. The word acequia, which is constantly encoun-
tered in studying the mission period of Texas history, is an old
Arabic word, now good Spanish, meaning canal. Main Avenue
in San Antonio was once called Acequia Street. A number of
practices and customs employed in irrigation at present in West
Texas are traceable to Moorish sources. Through centuries of
contact the Spaniards acquired, to some extent, the Moors' remark-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 25, July 1921 - April, 1922. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101082/. Accessed December 28, 2014.