Children •  Folklore and Bilingual

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Juan the Bear and the Water of Life: La Acequia de Juan del Oso

Enrique R. Lamadrid
Juan Estevan Arellano
Illustrated by Amy Córdova

La Acequia del Rito y la Sierra in the Mora Valley is the highest and most famous traditional irrigation system in New Mexico. It carries water up and over a mountain ridge and across a sub-continental divide, from the tributaries of the Río Grande to the immense watershed of the Mora, Canadian, Arkansas, and Mississippi Rivers. The names and stories of those who created this acequia to sustain their communities have mostly been lost and replaced by myths and legends. Now, when children ask, some parents attribute the task of moving mountains and changing the course of rivers to Juan del Oso, the stouthearted man whose father was a bear.

From the mountains of northern Spain to the Andes in South America, Spanish-speaking people have told ancient legends of Juan del Oso and his friends. In this children's tale, agriculturalist Juan Estevan Arellano and folklorist Enrique Lamadrid share a unique version of a celebrated story that has been told in northern New Mexico for centuries.

Part of the Pasó por Aquí Series on the Nuevomexicano Literary Heritage


Enrique R. Lamadrid is a literary folklorist and cultural historian in the University of New Mexico's Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Juan Estevan Arellano, a native of Embudo, New Mexico, is a poet, artist, writer, and agronomist. He is an expert in traditional Spanish/Moorish agriculture and the sustaining of traditional crops originally brought to New Mexico from Europe and Central Mexico.

Amy Córdova is an artist, author, educator and two-time ALA Pura Belpré Honors Award winner for children's book illustration. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, within the glorious view of the Jemez Mountains.


"...(an) engaging tale....children of all ethnic backgrounds will enjoy this story about animals with human characteristics....A good choice for public libraries that serve bicultural families, and for school libraries where folklore is part of the curriculum."


School Library Journal

"Recommended for all elementary and public libraries."


Críticas Magazine

"...(a) treasury of cultural lore..."


Midwest Book Review

"Themes of love, exile, redemption and community service are interwoven in a tale rich with regionalisms and supported by an ample glossary. Recommended, particularly for libraries in the Southwest."


REFORMA Newsletter

"This illustrated tale will delight parents and kids alike. Set sail for some bilingual bedtime reading."


Taos Horse Fly

8.25 x 11 in. 48 pages 17 color illustrations