Espada

 

 

 

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Espada Aqueduct / Texas
Th
is remarkable feat of Spanish colonial engineering was built to carry water from the river across a small creek. The Espada Aqueduct was completed in 1745 and still carries water over Piedras Creek to fields near the mission, just as it did centuries ago. It is the only functioning aqueduct from the Spanish colonial period in the United States. Using a system of floodgates, the mayordomo, or ditch master, controlled the volume of water sent to each field for irrigation and for other uses such as bathing, washing, and power for mill wheels. Today, nearby farms still use the water from this system.
The
Espada dam, constructed ca. 1745, was one of seven used to divert water from the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek into acequias, or irrigation ditches for the Spanish colonial missions, Villa de San Fernando, and the presidio. The Espada Dam still diverts water from the old San Antonio River channel into the acequia madre, or main water ditch, to irrigate Mission Espada’s fields.

The building of acequias, or irrigation canals (see for examples the pictures to the right), was an important element in Spanish efforts to colonize Texas. Much of the region occupied by the Spanish in Texas was semi-arid, and irrigation was vitally necessary for the success of agriculture. Acequias had been widely used throughout Spain since the time of the Moorish conquest, and the early Spanish colonists brought with them sophisticated knowledge of how to construct large-scale irrigation systems. The earliest acequias in Texas were dug near Ysleta, below El Paso, after 1680 by Pueblo Indians under the supervision of Spanish friars. These first acequias eventually became part of a large irrigation network, portions of which were still in use in the early 1990s. In the mid-1700s acequias were also planned or constructed at Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission, near the site of present Goliad, at Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Mission, near the site of present Montel, and at a number of other sites. Later, particularly after Mexican independence from Spain, numerous private acequias were built by the owners of ranchos or small farms. The most extensive network of acequias was found in San Antonio and the surrounding area. The oldest was the Concepción, or Pajalache built in 1729 and abondoned in 1869.
It was big enough to allow the Franciscans to employ small boats to transport themselves to and from the mission and to repair the canal.

Other acequias in the nabourhood: the Acequia Madre de Valero, built between 1718 and 1744, the Upper Labor acequia, in 1776; the San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission acequia, about 1730; the San Juan Capistrano Mission acequia, built in 1731 and the San Francisco de la Espada Mission acequia, built between 1731 and 1745. This last one has an aqueduct, read about it at the top of this page.