National Geographic : 1993 Sep
downstream from El Cerrito. Only nine fam ilies remain in this village of red dust. It has been three years since the bells of San Jose rang in celebration; the church stands vacant and decaying. But now the New Mex ico Community Foundation is helping restore it. On the day I visit, the task is to repair the roof where water has seeped in, leaving the adobe walls on the verge of collapse. Foundation supervisor Steve Peart shakes his head. Only four volunteers are here. "I made many calls; people are too busy," says church caretaker Fabiola Saiz. As I watch, she mixes earth and water in a trench in the ground and fills a large can with the adobe. "Our ancestors built this. How can we let it go?" she asks. She was married here. Her parents are buried here. "And my son Gerard is buried The Pecos-River of Hard-won Dreams there." She indicates a mound of earth bearing pink and yellow plastic flowers. "He was handicapped. I took care of him 27 years. I miss him very much." There is nothing to say. I reach for a trowel and a handful of adobe, adding a prayer of my own for the church of San Jos6. S IF WITH A SIGH of relief, the river emerges from canyon walls into plains an hour south of Colonias. Red rock disappears, replaced by the pale green of shortgrass prairie. Here in its middle basin, the river is at its most produc tive. For the rest of its run through New Mex ico, the Pecos stitches together fields of alfalfa and cotton and the pastures of cattle ranches. Much of the water that reaches the river here originates as violent summer storms.