Legacies of Spanish Water Law

Dr. Michael M. Brescia at the Autry National Center of the American West (Los Angeles), examining documents there in order to better understand Spanish civil law as it relates to property and water rights in the American Southwest.

An ethnohistorian, Michael M. Brescia, Ph.D., focuses his research on the living legacies of Spanish law in the American Southwest.

Spanish water law continues to fashion the rhythms of daily life in places like Arizona and New Mexico despite the 160 years that have passed since the United States assumed control of what we call today the Southwest.  American Indians and the Hispanic descendants of the first Spanish conquistadors invoke the principles of Spanish property law to defend their historical rights to natural resources. Dr. Brescia examines how the Spanish empire defined property during the colonial period, the reasons why Spanish water rights are taken into consideration by the U.S. judicial system today, and the inevitable clash that has taken place between two legal systems—American common law and Hispanic civil law—in the adjudication of water disputes in the Southwest.

A recognized expert on this topic, Dr. Brescia frequently serves as an expert witness in federal court cases.

Michael M. Brescia, Ph.D.
Curator of Ethnohistory
Affiliated Professor of History and Law
Arizona State Museum / University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210026
Tucson, AZ  85721-0026
See Dr. Brescia's Profile