I don’t know what set off this memory, but I started remembering stories I heard about the Cucapah and the Yuma people. They were the people that lived here in the Imperial Valley and along the Colorado River before the Europeans came. They were basically the same tribe. They spoke the same language and had the same customs.
In those old days, the Cucapah and the Yuma were in a constant state of war. As you can guess, the Yumas lived to the East around the Colorado River and the delta. The Cucapah lived in the Imperial Valley where there was very little water.
The real reason for the disputes was water rights. That Yuma had lots of water, being near the Colorado River. The Cucapah lived in the Imperial Valley where there was very little water. There were natural springs such as places now called Palm Springs, Cane Springs, and several others. The Cucapah had to fight the Yuma in order to keep to the water.
One very dry year the Cucapah were at the place where they often had water. It is now called Rio Nuevo. This is where Mexicali is and the river is still there. That Yumas came down and declared war for the water and they were winning the battle against the Cucapah.
The women were shouting at their men, “¡Sin agua nos vamos a morir todos!” That is to say without water we’re all going to die! So the men got excited and beat up the Yuma tribe.
I just imagine what it was like to be there and fight over a few desperate drops of water especially in the Rio Nuevo. Today it gets all the leached salts of the soil, the chemical runoff from farms, the fertilizers, insecticides, and defoliants. Sometimes the water gets the color of red and it has an oily film on it. I have often seen a sudsy froth also floating on it.
I have never seen it welcome thirsty drinkers.