AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS: National Park Service Releases Preliminary Report on San Luis Valley's Latino Historic and Cultural Heritage

Study Identifies Important Sites, Traditions

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON—Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis today released a preliminary report that identifies a number of important Latino historic and cultural sites in the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico worthy of consideration for inclusion in the National Park System.

“The San Luis Valley has been home to a variety of cultures dating back 11,000 years and represents the northernmost expansion of the Spanish colonial frontier in the region,” said Secretary Salazar. “The people who settled here helped build America, and their cultural and historic contributions are an important chapter in the story of our nation that should be preserved and told to future generations.”

“The San Luis Valley contains Colorado's oldest settlement by non-Native American people,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “It is also the location of the first irrigated water rights, a ditch that is still in operation today. These and many other facts underscore the important place that this valley has in Colorado's history and the nation's history. From its cultural heritage to its critical agricultural production, it is indeed fitting to showcase this region of the state and nation by the National Park Service. We are proud to join with Interior Secretary Salazar on exploring this history and asset and finding ways to protect and promote it.”

The report, entitled San Luis Valley and Central Sangre de Cristo Mountains Reconnaissance Survey Report, highlights a remarkable concentration of historic resources associated with Latino settlement, including Colorado's oldest documented town, only communal pasture, first water right, and oldest church.

Many of these Latino historic resources, including the Trujillo Homesteads and La Vega and Associated Sites, are currently being studied as new National Historic Landmarks. Pike's Stockade already has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Segments of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail also pass through the survey area.

“Throughout the San Luis Valley are fascinating and significant cultural resources that tell the unique story of the people who have inhabited this region over the past 11,000 years – especially the contributions of early Latino settlers in Southern Colorado,” said Senator Mark Udall. “As chairman of the Senate's National Parks subcommittee, I look forward to working with Secretary Salazar to find the best way to ensure these resources are preserved and interpreted so that all Americans can enjoy and better understand the rich cultural heritage of Colorado's beautiful San Luis Valley.”

“Colorado's San Luis Valley is blessed with a stunning array of scenic vistas and cultural treasures,” said Senator Michael Bennet. “The Trujillo Homesteads, La Vega sites and the historic trails of the Valley are beautiful sites of tremendous natural and cultural value that deserve our protection and appreciation.”

The report notes that the area is also home to centuries-old traditions - such as folklore, farming practices, religion and art - that can still be found in this isolated and predominantly agricultural region, including the San Luis Valley of Colorado where a version of 17th century Spanish is still spoken by about 35 percent of the population.

“These studies reflect an ongoing commitment to ensure that the contributions of all Americans are well represented in the National Park System,” said Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, which administers the programs for the Department of the Interior.

Although the National Park Service cannot initiate studies of potential new units of the National Park System without the specific authorization of Congress, the National Park Service may conduct preliminary resource assessments and gather data on potential study areas or sites. The term “reconnaissance survey report” has been used to describe this type of assessment.

Based upon the findings of these assessments, the NPS may advise Congress that the resources merit further consideration through a more in-depth special resource study authorized by Congress.

The reconnaissance report is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a conservation ethic for the 21st Century and to reconnect Americans to our nation's natural, cultural, and historic heritage. As illustrated with the recent White House American Latino Heritage Forum and other Interior initiatives, the Obama administration is committed to recognizing and preserving important chapters in the nation's story that have not yet been fully told, such as the contributions of Latinos to the building of America.

An overview of the report may be downloaded HERE.


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