Until the mid-20th century large and unique wetlands gave name to this region at the dry and warm heart of the vast Chihuahuan Desert: La Laguna. This was a desert seasonally flooded by Mexico’s largest rivers that never met the sea: the Nazas and the Aguanaval. Laguna de Mayrán, Vega de San Pedro, Laguna de Viesca, Laguna del Caimán are long forgotten landscapes, long forgotten names. In the 1950s a North American Okavango disappeared in front of our eyes.
After more than 60 years of dams, diversions, cement-lined canals and a ferocious attack on the acquifers we have no more lagunas. We still have two rivers that revive from time to time and a shrinking aquifer with ever mounting levels of arsenic, fluoride and other poisons. We drink the water that fell thousands of years ago on the distant Sierra. There is no mystery on the origins of our plight. La Laguna is home to the largest dairy corporation in Mexico, Grupo Lala, now also the second largest dairy corporation in the United States through mergers and acquisitions. We are a desert that exports water in the form of milk and cheese and yoghurt. We are a community of water miners digging for money rapidly approaching our own doom. Mining water to grow alfalfa to feed the cows that give the milk.
Slowly we remember that it was water that brought us here. That without water we will not persist. Slowly, some realize that we still have the rivers and some shrinking but wonderful wetlands that Red-tailed hawks, Vermillion flycatchers and Mexican ducks still call home. The Cañón de Fernández State Park, a Ramsar site on the nearby Nazas, has water all year round and a riparian forest with 1400 year old Bald cypresses. A dot so green in the middle of this vast, high aridness that it supports small populations of rare Grey hawks, Wood ducks and Green jays. A migratory magnet for warblers, becards and tanagers. We live in La Laguna, clinging to a name as we cling to a hope.