ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS) is an organization that has been working to retain water rights in the South Valley since 2011. Since then, their mission has expanded to preserving water and land in the area, as well as the traditions and culture surrounding them.
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As part of that mission, Jorge Garcia, executive director and co-founder of the organization said their newest project will allow them to receive feedback from the community, called Hidden Gems. The Hidden Gems project is an adaptation of a project done in the Tenderloin Community of San Francisco.
Garcia said they hope to use this project as a way to start creating ways to enhance and develop the strengths of the South Valley community. “In order to maintain water rights in the South Valley, we need an educated community that understands the need to train young people to understand the interconnection to land, water, and policy not only for the maintenance and water but also to have a community that can actually defend itself and protect what we consider to be a constitutional asset,” Garcia said.
The first phase of the project involves collecting surveys from South Valley residents. They can fill out the survey online and answer questions about what they believe makes the community special. The survey will close in mid-November.
Phase two of the project is for the artists, filmmakers, poets, and writers, Garcia said. It will involve collecting artwork that exemplifies the South Valley from local creatives. A panel of judges will decide which pieces will be selected for the project.
Phase three is the final event where the artwork and results of the survey will be presented. “We will be sharing the results with the community and how we are going to support the development of this community in a way that it retains its uniqueness and the beauty that it represents, historical beauty, cultural beauty, all these beautiful things that the community posses,” Garcia said.
Garcia believes one of the things that makes the South Valley so unique is that residents have a special connection with the land and water. “To fight for the land is to actually fight for the spirit of the place. Water is not just a commodity or an economic concept, water is a spiritual component of this community because that connects us back to the Indigenous people from Mexico, to the Spanish people that came and brought the traditions of the acequia which actually goes back to the Muslim world and the African world. It’s almost like we have a worldwide connection here in New Mexico,” Garcia said.
Most of all, Garcia said he hopes this will be the beginning of people viewing the South Valley in a new light. “Everybody thinks that this is a very poor, crime-ridden community, but I have never seen that. The only thing that I’ve seen in this community is beauty and community. So how do we preserve that? We have to recognize it, we have to highlight it, and we have to support and move towards things that the community actually deems important,” Garcia said.