In Andean society, as in many other areas of the world, irrigation water carries broad cultural significance and has long been a source of conflict. Nowhere is the struggle over irrigation and over the cultural meanings of water more apparent than in Cabanaconde, a large peasant community located in the arid highlands of southern Peru. Using historical materials and richly detailed ethnographic reporting, Paul H. Gelles shows that water, ethnicity, and power in Cabanaconde, as elsewhere in the Andes, must be understood against the backdrop of the region's colonial past and contemporary nation-builing in Peru. Sifting through the layers of meaning found in the local, ritualized model of irrigation and the secular, monetary model put forth by the Peruvian state, Gelles shows that these models embody fundamentally different cultural rationales concerning natural resources, power, equity, and efficiency. Local models of irrigation, which previously served indigenous and Iberian states, have now become powerful tools of resistance against interference by local elites and the national government.