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An Interview with
Willie Escarcida of Placitas

—Victoria Klemz

Originally printed in El Cronicón, a publication of the Sandoval County Historical Society, March 2002

“My Dad was a small-time farmer, on acreage south of the Placitas village. We grew corn, beans, various other vegetables and had some cattle as well. As children, we helped my Dad with the farming. I do believe my interest in agriculture started then,” commented Willie Escarcida, a native of Placitas, who through the years has been the recipient of much recognition in awards and plaques, both as an arbitrator and working representative of government and business. The plaques indicate too, a recognition for leadership, counseling, the need for Soil and Water Conservation, and a man whose life interest has always remained a deep interest and concern for Soil and Water Conservation.

“Yes,” Escarcida said, “I do believe that a real interest in growing things was nurtured through those early years, and after my mother died (with six children in our family) being forced into learning to do what we could on our own, learning to live on our land as well. During those growing up years, I was beginning to be very much aware of the affinity between Soil and Water!”

Eventually, as a young adult, in 1945, he met the former Frances Montoya, who was born in Jemez Springs and grew up in Greeley, Colorado. They were married in 1948 and will soon enjoy their 54th Wedding Anniversary. In the ensuing years, three children blessed this union, Elena, Jean, and Sandra. Elena resides in Colorado, Sandra in Placitas, and Jean is deceased. During W.W. II, Escarcida spent three years in the Army in the South Pacific, participating in several campaigns. Due to an injury, he was discharged. (At this point, Mrs. Escarcida proudly added, “I know he doesn’t want me to mention this—he received a Purple Heart.”)

“Due to my War injury, I was concerned there might be limitation as to what endeavor I might become involved with in Civilian life, so I went to the Veteran’s Administration where, after testing me, it was advised that I might be fitted for administration work.” To prepare himself, he enrolled in Browning Commercial Business School in downtown Albuquerque, from where Escarcida graduated after an intensive three year course instead of the required four year one—so anxious was he to get on with his life.

After twenty-seven years as head of the Accounting Department of the Bureau of Reclamation, Willie Escarcida retired. Because of Reclamation’s interest and his own as well (in water extension), he had developed a keen interest in the overall picture of water distribution. Upon being asked if he thought the Bureau of Reclamation had changed much in recent years—he replied, “The goals remain the same, the purpose for which it was founded is continuing. Hopefully, the current management will be more aggressive in their future concern for the Farmer!”

For a year or so, (after retirement) the Escarcidas traveled extensively. Returning to their Placitas home in the Village, he recalled, “I soon felt that I wanted to become more involved in my community and the nearby area, now that I had the time.” Meanwhile, he looked in several directions where he might be of help; an opportunity appeared to become an Arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau, working as a “go-between” for the businessman and the BBB. In between these assignments Governor King gave Willie Escarcida an assignment (as a member of the Economic Development Corp., here) on the State Commission.

While still involved with all of these activities dealing with Soil Erosion, Community Planting, and Water Distribution, he decided he would no longer give time to being on governing boards and instead give his time and attention to the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation, and be more active with Soil Preservation Projects.

In questioning Escarcida, as to how he feels about the future for Placitas Soil and Water Conservations, he replied, “Well, I think it’s too late. This has always been a farming community and back in the early 1900’s the State allocated water such as irrigation water, equal to one acre foot of water which was allocated to 214 acres of the original Placitas area. (One has to remember that at that time it was largely a farming community.) But now, Placitas has become between 80 and 90 percent housing. That land is regretfully lost now,” he reflected.

He offers the following thoughts for the future: “Don’t rely on Nature to take care of water distribution. The people themselves, the Water Board, all residents as well have to stay on top of it! I have a deep concern for the future inhabitants of the Village and their continued need for the use of the Water supply.”

Sighing, Escarcida says, “Today, as I see it, the future in terms of our Placitas water supply for domestic use…its conservation now will be important to those coming after us…the concern now is very important for the transmission of water from its source in ditches and from reservoirs, has to be carefully monitored.” Springing from a deep love for their roots—both his family’s and his own in the charming old village, he finalizes this thoughts by saying, “Do whatever is required to hold Soil and Water in their respective places. Soil conservation means hold Soil in place-and the same applies to Water.”

 

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