Colorado: San Luis Valley sites get national recognition

The Trujillo Homesteads in the San Luis Valley have been designated as a National Historic Landmark. PHOTO COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR.

Trujillo Homesteads designated as national historic landmarks, honoring Colorado’s Latino heritage

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is making good on his intent to include Latino heritage in the iconic landscapes of the National Park system. This week, Salazar designated the Trujillo Homesteads, an early Latino settlement in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, as a National Historic Landmark.

“Latino settlement in Colorado is an important chapter in the history of the West, marking the northernmost expansion of the Spanish colonial frontier in the region,” Salazar said. “With this designation, we are helping to ensure the story of the settlers, how they lived, and the influence they had on the culture and history of Colorado and our nation will be carried down to future generations.”

The designation was timed to precede a Jan. 4 public meeting on how to improve the conservation of natural, historic, and cultural resources of the San Luis Valley. The meeting, set for 9:30 a.m. at Adams State College in Alamosa, will be led by Secretary Salazar, Governor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senator Mark Udall, and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

The meetingwill focus on what additional steps can be taken to conserve the rich history, culture, and natural beauty of the San Luis Valley, including Colorado’s oldest documented town, only communal pasture, first water right, and oldest church.

Last month, the Interior Department released a preliminary report by the National Park Service that identifies a number of important 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 designation of the Trujillo Homesteads as a National Historic Landmark is part of the National Park Service’s new American Latino Heritage Initiative to document, preserve and interpret historic places associated with American Latino history and the role of American Latinos in the development of the United States. It also supports the goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to reconnect people, especially young people, to our nation’s historic, cultural, and natural heritage.

The site was originally nominated for potential designation on October 12, 2011 as President Obama and Secretary Salazar welcomed American Latino leaders from across the country at the White House American Latino Heritage Forum. During the day-long forum, high-ranking Administration Officials and Latino community leaders and scholars worked to identify avenues through which the story of the American Latino can be told in a more complete and inclusive way.

The Trujillo Homesteads provides an exceptional representation of the expansion of Hispano-American settlement into the American Southwest following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo as well as an illustration of the conflict between cattle ranchers, who were primarily Anglo-Americans, and sheep herders, who were primarily Hispano-Americans. Through archeology, the site has a high potential to yield information addressing nationally significant research questions about ethnicity and race on the western frontier.

“This new listing will join approximately 2,500 other sites in the National Historic Landmark Program,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “These places showcase our rich and complex history – from prehistoric time right up to the modern era.”

The National Historic Landmark Program, established under the Historic Sites Act of 1935, is administered by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. The agency works with preservation officials and other partners interested in nominating a landmark. Completed applications are reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, which makes recommendations for designation to the Secretary of the Interior. If selected, property ownership remains intact but each site receives a designation letter, a plaque, and technical preservation advice.

Additional information on the designations can be found at http://www.nps.gov/nhl.

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3 Responses

  1. Is it just my take here, or was this a really fast tract from nomination to designation? I wonder, if politics enters into the picture? Don’t misunderstand, I think it’s great to include this, as well as many more to fill in the gaps of our total cultural heritage.

    • I’m not sure about the timeline, Norman, but generally the park service has a prescribed process it follows for designating sites and I wouldn’t imagine that they would shortcut it for any reason.

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