Antonito Train Depot Restored

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Colorado Preservation Inc. and the town of Antonito recently refaced the exterior of the historic Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot, located at 307 Main Street in Antonito, CO.

Beginning around the late 1870s, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RGRR) began extending rail south from Alamosa, for services to the south and to the west, and was looking for a site to build a new depot that would provide terminal services for these two lines near present day Antonito. The D&RGRR purchased the property in October 1880 that was first known as San Antonio Junction. Antonito soon became the name of the town, which means little Antonio or Anthony in Spanish. The new depot was at the juncture of rail lines servicing freight and passengers headed south for Santa Fe along the Chili Line and similarly for travel west to Durango and Silverton extending over Cumbres Pass and into New Mexico.

The depot was constructed in the 1880s utilizing distinctive, locally quarried, exterior lava (rhyolite) masonry, interior lath and plaster, hip roof construction and was encompassed by a large wood platform providing access to both rail lines. The significance of the depot to the town of Antonito is evident in the fact that all of Antonito’s original buildings were constructed to face the station. The depot was remodeled in 1917 and added a new waiting area, which allowed for separate men’s and women’s waiting areas and restrooms, a ticket office and baggage/freight area. Use of the depot was extensive before it ceased providing services in approximately 1951. The Town on Antonito acquired the depot from Union Pacific in 2002 and has been working on the preservation of the building ever since. This building was officially listed in 2007 as one of Colorado Preservation Inc.’s Most Endangered Places. The town of Antonito has formed a partnership with Conejos County Commissioners, Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic & Historic Byway, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area ,the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec, and Permian Basin Railroad (known as the Antonito/Conejos Railroad Heritage Alliance) to help the town with preservation plans, grant writing, and fundraising. This current revitalization was accomplished with the collaborative work of Colorado Preservation Inc., The Town of Antontito and the SdCNHA with Schuber-Darden Architects and Empire Carpentry as the contractors on the project.

“The D&RG Depot in Antonito is the type of project that CPI’s Preservation Services Department is set up to support. Located in a small town, this unique gem of a building tells the story of development and railroading crucial to the town, the valley and the region. By providing project management to the Town of Antonito, we are helping to ensure the ongoing preservation and ultimate “Save” for this Colorado Endangered Place.” Said Cindy Nasky, Preservation Services Director, CPI.

“We are happy to take part in preserving another historic building integral to the stories and lives of residents in Antonito and throughout the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area,” said Tori Martinez, Executive Director SdCNHA. To find out more about this year’s Heritage Grants visit

 before the exterior restoration


The project included the restoration of 20 windows and 18 doors, along with the interior and exterior of the sashes and frames. The old deteriorated roof was replaced with a new roof and a restored galvanized ridge. The fascia and surrounding woodwork and braces were also restored, along with the exterior woodwork.

The rail heritage in the state of Colorado is vast and varied and needs to be preserved for the education and enjoyment of future generations. Antonito, in particular, was an important stop for narrow gauge rail traffic that spanned the state from Durango, Alamosa, Walsenburg, Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver. “This depot has historic significance in the area not only during the Narrow Gauge Steam Train Era, but also during the inception of the current Regular Gauge Era. It is an important piece of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area that should be preserved. It is my opinion that this type of project is what the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s mission is all about and we should do all we can to protect and preserve before continued irreparable damage occurs.” said Robert Rael, Executive Director of Costilla County Economic Development Council, Inc.


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Our Executive Director Obtains Master’s Degree

Tori Martinez, Executive Director for the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area graduated from Arizona State University with a Master’s degree in Sociology, on December 12, 2017.

Tori decided to pursue her Master’s degree because she wanted more training, to better serve and give back to her community. Arizona State University’s Sociology degree offered a focus on family and community dynamics. It had a flexible schedule, and an accelerated program, that allowed Tori to continue working and finish her degree in a shorter amount of time.

Tori’s roots stem from the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and set the groundwork for her passion in preserving land, culture, history, language and culture. She grew up on a farm in Capulin where her family raised sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats and horses, and grew their own alfalfa for feed. “I have fond memories of irrigating the field with my father and cousins.” She graduated from Centauri High School and spent summers in San Luis with her grandparents. “I am proud that my uncles helped build the trail up the mountain for the Stations of the Cross Shrine. I am also proud that my great-grandfather was a Hermano Mayor for the Penitente brotherhood.”

Prior to her Master’s program, Tori was a single mom with three daughters when she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Adams State University in Social Sciences with a minor in Women’s Studies. She says her motivation for pursuing a bachelor’s degree as a non-traditional student was to inspire her daughters. “I want them to see that it’s never too late to chase after your dreams!”

During her undergrad at Adams State, Tori had an internship with the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. She also had two teaching assistant positions, one in sociology and one is psychology. “At that time I was thinking of going into teaching in higher education and I wanted to get some actual experience in order to help me make up my mind. Ultimately I decided that work outside of academia was the path for me.”

All of the experience and education at Adams State University provided a great foundation for a smooth transition into her Master’s Degree at Arizona State University. “The program was intense, but I am thankful for the support and understanding of my family and friends who were essential in encouraging me to complete the program. I am also grateful for the support I received from the Board of Directors at the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.”

The President of the Board of Directors for the SdCNHA, Nick Saez feels that Tori’s work is moving the organization in the right direction. “I know that I speak for the entirety of the Board of Directors when I say that we are delighted by the work that Tori has done over the past year. The completion of her graduate degree in sociology has added to an already impressive resume. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the San Luis Valley are fortunate to have such a devoted expert leading the cause to preserve the region’s rich cultural legacy through oral history and other forms of public testimony.”

That oral history project is called Voices of the Valley. It explores and documents the relationship between culture and natural resources in the San Luis Valley, placing emphasis on the particular meanings that inhabitants associate with the communities they live in. This ongoing project is being accomplished through video interviews with lifelong members of the Heritage Area’s communities. Interviews are posting weekly to the free and publically accessible Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s YouTube channel: SangreNHA. Dr. Waddell, a partner on this project, and Tori have also written a book chapter on the USDA discrimination in the San Luis Valley for textbook use, to be published in 2018.

Tori has been working diligently to bring education about the SdCNHA to local school districts and educators through a new place-based learning curricula. Place-based learning allows students to engage in research within the place they live, empowers students to take ownership of local stories, fosters passion about their own educational journey, and creates a sense of pride within their own communities. Teacher workshops will take place for local educators in April of 2018 and again in the fall to share the heritage area’s collection of research, resources and lesson plans. A field trip grant program is also being implemented this year by the SdCNHA. Eligible applicants are all K-12 schools located in Alamosa, Costilla and Conejos Counties. This grant encourages field trips which foster the study of land and water, local history, local heritage, local culture; archeology; understanding of place, and the natural and human resources we use and conserve. For more information on Oral History,Teacher Workshops and Field Trip Grants please contact the SdCNHA or visit


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Rio Culebra Ranch Conserved


The Conservation Easement of the Valdez Rio Culebra Ranch in San Luis is a significant convergence of natural, historical and cultural resources in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA).

By funding this conservation easement through Colorado Open Lands’, SdCNHA is helping to safeguard the property’s acequia water, requiring that historic use of the water for ranching and farming proposes be continued, and that the water rights never be sold or transferred from the land. This also guarantees a system of stewardship for the Rio Culebra Basin on the San Pedro ditch and ensures neighboring acequias and their lands will also receive water in future years. The conservation easement will also ensure the property is never subdivided. Conservation easements are perpetual, meaning that this project will not only protect the land, water and ranching heritage now, but will also provide a stream of benefits for future generations.

Acequias, which are community-operated canal systems that carry snow runoff or river water to distant fields, evolved over 10,000 years in the deserts of the Middle East and were introduced into southern Spain by the Moors during their nearly 800-year occupation. Spanish colonizers took acequias to the New World where they were blended with similar irrigation systems of the Native Americans. Acequias include specific governance over water distribution, water scarcity plans, and all other matters pertaining to what is viewed as a communal resource. The mayordomo, or watermaster, of the acequia makes decisions about water distribution among community members, with the consent and advice of the acequia members. Each member has one vote, and so each member is an equal in the decision making process.

“In acequia culture, water is intended to be linked to land, not treated as a commodity. We understand that the conservation easements on the Valdez Ranch will permanently link the land and water, by encumbering the San Pedro ditch water rights by the conservation easement.” said Delmer Vialpando, President of the Board of Directors for the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association. “In addition to protecting the land and water on the Valdez Ranch, we are eager to see the important agricultural scenic views on the ranch be protected from development. One can see the beautiful farming fields from a number of highly visible county roads, as well as from the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross, the number one tourist destination at the heart of downtown San Luis.”

This property provides a critical buffer to a nationally unique historic resource, known as La Vega. La Vega is the only Mexican-Era land grant commons in the country which is still in use for its initial function, communal grazing. The protection of the Valdez Rio Culebra Ranch contributes to the protection of one of the oldest water rights in Colorado, and consequently, supports our state’s oldest agricultural community.

Judy Lopez, Colorado Open Lands (COL), SLV Conservation Project Manager notes, “That even though the land has not historically allowed public access,most landowners do support educational tours to learn about agriculture, ranching, acequias and land stewardship. These tours are set up by COL who works with the landowners to provide quality educational experiences”.   “It is important to protect these historically rich landscapes and who best to promote the historical significance than these Centennial Farm and Ranch families.”

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area has an annual cycle for our Heritage Grants. Our 2019 call for Heritage Grant applications will be accepting application beginning in March, 2017 and the deadline for submissions will be June 1st, 2018. Our desire is to share the culturally diverse stories of our area, because we believe that stories are the backbone of identity and culture. The work of our past grantees has been to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the unique stories of people, places, and resources within this area and the San Luis Valley.

These grants are available to local organizations working to promote the mission of the National Heritage Area by restoring historic buildings, providing interpretation, restoring/promoting scenic and recreational resources or documenting culturally significant components of the way of life in the San Luis Valley. These efforts will support Heritage Preservation and Tourism and promote the counties of Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla.

If you would like to apply for a heritage grant or would like more information please visit


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An Old Fashioned Hispanic Christmas

Alyssa Maestas from San Pablo, age 3

Mis Oremos and Mis Crismas, are holiday traditions that are unique to the villages of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. In the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, the Culebra Villages outside of San Luis have carried on these cultural traditions. For the second year in a row San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, is bringing this tradition back into their community.

Richard de Olivas y Cordova, active member of the governance team for Adelante San Luis who leads the revitalization of Manito Culture, explained, “The town of San Luis is reviving this tradition as a way for families to come together and celebrate heritage and community.” Although, not held on the traditional date of Christmas Eve (this year’s gather took place this past Saturday, it is still just as powerful a bringing together people. “A family from Texas was passing through town and saw the large gathering of people outside the town hall. They stopped and asked about what was going on, and were just amazed because they had never seen anything like it. We invited them to join and they did, they had a great time, and we hope more people feel welcome to come experience this tradition with us next year.”

“Costilla County Prevention Partners(CCPP) brought students down to be a part of the celebration that had never experienced this tradition. They were just so excited and had so much fun learning and participating in this cultural experience. The resident team of volunteers worked very hard planning and leading this event. ” Said Jessica-Ortega-Dugan, Coordinator of Adelante San Luis.
“This was a great success and partnership for our second annual Mis Crismas Celebration between Adelante San Luis, CCPP, the Town of San Luis and Social Services.”

Volunteers from Adelante San Luis, the Town of San Luis and Community Prevention Partners of Costilla County

It begins in each village with the lighting of one luminaria (bonfire) on Dec 16th. On the 17th two luminarias are lit. On the 18th three, so that on the 24th there will be 9 luminarias in each village. On the evening of the 24th, Christmas Eve, a few of the older teenagers don masks and costumes as not to be recognized. They are called abuelos (grandfathers). They make the younger kids sing, march in formation, etcetera-all to the beat of a chicote (a horse whip) around the bonfires. Finally the whole group goes to the homes of their neighbors in the villages to ask for Oremos. In front of the homes the farolitos (candles in bags) are lit. At each door the children, guided by the abuelos, recite this poem:

“Oremos, oremos Angelitos semos.

Del cielo venemos a pedir oremos.

Si no nos dan oremos

Puertas y ventanas quebraremos.”

English Translation:

“We pray, we pray. We are little angels.

From heaven we come to ask for oremos.

If you do not give us oremos,

Doors and windows will be broken.”


Traditionally, on Christmas day, a similar event of going house to house followed, called Mis Crismas.

Rita Martinez, of San Luis, remembers the tradition from her childhood fondly, “It is a little bit like Halloween. We would put on tons of clothes and gloves to walk through piles and piles of snow on Christmas eve saying Oremos at each house and collecting goodies like empanaditas, biscochitos and candies. Then again Christmas morning we would bundle up again. All the neighborhood kids would all wait outside excitedly for the kids to gather and we would go house to house together saying “Mis Crismas” in place of Oremos. The neighbors all wanted to be the house that had the best goodies and would fill our pillowcases to the top. We would do this all morning, playing in the snow along the way, making snow angels and having so much fun. When we got home, Christmas dinner was ready.”

These festivities are held around Christmas time and relate to Christian tradition, but parts are reminiscent of Judaism and of the Matachina dancers. Richard explains, “The luminarias are lit, increasing by one fire a day, similar to the lighting of the candles on Hanukkah. It is possible this was a way that people could have secretly celebrated Judaism in this area, without being questioned, since they tied it into Christmas tradition. Occasionally the lighting of the luminarias corresponds exactly to the nights of Hanukkah.” The Matachina dancers were originally brought over from Spain, the music and dance depicts the coming together of the Christians and the Moores. The Spanish showed the Native Americans this dance and they adapted it to celebrate the coming together they were similarly experiencing. Costumes and masks were worn and the abuelos used a chicote whip to keep time to the music. “I think it is interesting that the traditional Matachinas have died away, they used to dance and celebrate every Christmas when I was young. Now you can only find them in a few places like Bernadillo, NM. The Abuelos of Oremos is one way that we have kept the connection to that part of our history.”

For more information on the traditions within the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit




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Hispanic Cultural Traditions for Christmas


The tradition of luminarias in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area dates back more than 300 years. The tradition began when the Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed unique and easy to make Christmas lanterns, called luminarias, to guide the spirit of Christ along their paths.

Luminarias today are often made of a brown paper bag, which has been folded at the top and filled with a few cups of sand and a votive candle illuminating the bag from within.

These lanterns have not always been made out of paper bags, the early versions were actually small bonfires of crisscrossed piñon branches which were built in three-foot high squares. Instead of making lanterns that would hang in a tree or from a roof, which would become damaged by the wind, small bags were made and placed on the ground, rooftops and along pathways. Luminarias are said to originate from Spaniard merchants who were impressed with the paper lanterns from the Chinese culture and decided to make their own version when they migrated to New Spain.

The name of the decoration is the subject of a long-running item of contention. Some insisting the correct term is farolito which translates as “little lantern”. While others are sure the correct name is luminaria which means “festival light”. Historically luminaria referred not to a paper lantern, but to a small festival or vigil bonfire; however, this distinction is not commonly made outside of northern New Mexico. Farolitos may be referred to as “luminarias” by some, but on Christmas Eve, when the farolitos(illuminated paper bags)are lit in streets of Santa Fe, luminarias (Posada vigil fires) are burning in the small mountain villages of Northern New Mexico. Luminaria bonfires made of square, stacked piñon and juniper wood can often can be seen in towns and pueblos across northern New Mexico. In the mountain villages and by the roadways they are built by local residents to welcome visitors and to commemorate holiday activities. No matter what you call them they are beautiful to see this time of year.


These crisp cultural cookies are flavored with cinnamon and anise, and are a yearly tradition for many Hispanic families in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. These cookies are the result of centuries of influence brought by local and indigenous customs. These biscuits originated in Spain, where they were called mantecados, and date back to the 16th century, a time when the region of Andalusia experienced a surplus of grains and pork products. The roots of this cookie took on greater significance during Mexico’s Battle of Puebla in 1862, when Mexicans overthrew the French-backed Emperor Maximilian (Celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo). It is said that Mexican women wanted a commemorative cookie and used tin cans to cut the cookies to symbolize stamping out the French. The cookie symbolizes freedom and victory and has also become strongly associated with the Christmas season. They are often offered to the posadistas—the people who participate in Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration where a nightly procession re-enacts Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem. Traditionally, the procession is always refused “lodging”, though the hosts often provide refreshments and biscochitos. Luminaria bonfires were lit to provide light and warmth for the posadistas.

Biscochitos Recipe:


Makes approximately 5 dozen thin cookies

The traditional shapes are stars, circles and crescents


1 cup lard

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup brandy or rum

1 teaspoon anise seeds

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar



  1. In a stand mixer, cream together lard and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. With mixer running on low, add egg, vanilla extract, brandy, and anise seeds and mix until homogeneous. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix just until dough forms into cohesive ball.


  1. Form dough into two cylinders about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Chill for 2 hours or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze logs tightly wrapped for several months. Defrost in refrigerator for 1 day before using.


3.Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and set aside. Cut cylinders into 1/4 inch disks and on ungreased cookie sheets leaving 1/2-inch gap between cookies. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.


4.Dip rim of each cookie into cinnamon sugar mixture. Let cool on racks and store at room temperature in air-tight container for up to 5 days.


Making tamales is an annual tradition and typically a big family endeavor throughout the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. The tamale has been recorded as early as 5,000 B.C., possibly even 7,000 B.C. in pre-Columbian history. Initially, women were taken along in battle as army cooks to make the masa for tortillas and the meats, stews, drinks, etc. As the warring tribes of the Aztec, Mayan and Incan cultures grew, the demand of readying the nixtamal (corn) itself became so overwhelming a process that a need arose to have more portable, sustaining foods. This requirement demanded the creativity of women – hence the tamale was born.

Tamales are corn dough dumplings filled with meat and chili, wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. Tamales were prepared ahead of time and packed so they could be cooked over a fire or heated on coals. The process of making tamales takes so much time and effort, they have gradually become a holiday tradition where family members gather and make huge batches to share.

Pork Tamales Recipe

For the meat filling:

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin seed

2 pounds Rump Roast, untrimmed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced


For the wrappers:

4 to 5 dozen dried corn husks


For the cornmeal dough:

2 pounds yellow cornmeal, approximately 6 cups

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

7 1/2 ounces lard, approximately 1 cup

3 to 4 cups reserved cooking liquid


In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, kosher salt, paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and cumin. Divide the mixture in half and reserve 1 half for later use.


Cut the Rump Roast into 6 even pieces and place into a 6 to 8-quart saucepan. Add half of the spice mixture and enough water, 3 to 3 1/2 quarts, to completely cover the meat. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meat is very tender and falling apart, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid to a cutting board. Leave the cooking liquid in the pot. Both meat and liquid need to cool slightly before making dough and handling. Remove any large pieces of fat and shred the meat into small pieces, pulling apart with your hands or using 2 forks.


Place a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Once shimmering, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are semi-translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and remaining half of the spice mixture and continue to cook for another minute. Add the meat and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.


While the meat is cooking, place the husks in a large bowl or container and submerge completely in hot water. Soak the husks until they are soft and pliable, at least 45 minutes and up to 2 hours.


For the dough:


Place the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and combine. Add the lard and using your hands, knead together until the lard is well incorporated into the dry mixture. Gradually add enough of the reserved cooking liquid, 3 to 4 cups to create a dough that is like thick mashed potatoes. The dough should be moist but not wet. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set aside until ready to use.


To assemble the tamales:


Remove a corn husks from the water and pat dry to remove excess water. Working in batches of 6, lay the husks on a towel and spread about 2 tablespoons of the dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk to within 1/2-inch of the edges. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture in a line down the center of the dough. Roll the husk so the dough surrounds the meat, then fold the bottom under to finish creating the tamale. Repeat until all husks, dough and filling are used. Tie the tamales, around the center, individually or in groups of 3, with kitchen twine.


To cook the tamales:


Stand the tamales upright on their folded ends, tightly packed together, in the same saucepan used to cook the meat. Add the reserved broth from making the dough and any additional water so the liquid comes to 1-inch below the tops of the tamales. Try not to pour the broth directly into the tops of the tamales. Cover, place over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 12 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to low, to maintain a low simmer, and cook until the dough is firm and pulls away easily from the husk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


Serve the tamales warm. For a ‘wet’ hot tamale, serve with additional simmering liquid. Store leftover tamales, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, in the freezer, for up to a month. To reheat, remove the plastic wrap and steam until heated through.


Posole, translated as “hominy” is a traditional stew that has a long ritual history among the Aztecs. Since Maize was a sacred plant for the Aztecs, posole was made to be consumed on special occasions to celebrate the creation of man. Meso-Americans believed the god Quetzalcoati made man from masa (corn-meal dough). As a result, corn took on a religious significance. The kernels were soaked in a mixture of ground limestone (farther north, they used ashes to cure the corn) and water, soaked for several days then dried. Processing the corn in this way allowed the corn to be preserved for several years while keeping fresh taste and free from vermin, and allowed the release of a multitude of important nutrients to become accessible for digestion. In the “General History of Things from New Spain” Fray Bernardino de Sahagun mentioned during the festivities to honor the god Xipe, the Emperor was served a massive dish of pozolli-crowned with the thigh of a sacrificed prisoner. That’s right. Curiously, chili was left out of that recipe. After the conquest of the Aztec Empire cannibalism was banned and pork became the new meat added to the dish. Posole didn’t arrive in the Rio Grande Valley and the San Luis Valley until was brought by the Spanish in the 1600s. These cultures took the posole recipe and adapted it to make their own, endowing it with a life-affirming significance.

Posole Recipe

1 pound dried posole

1 quart water, or more

2 pounds pork, steak or roast, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 Tbsp salt or more to taste

2 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch of Mexican oregano

1 Tbsp cumin, or to taste

½ Caribe chili, or to taste

Simmer the posole in unseasoned water until it becomes soft and the kernals have burst open; it usually requires 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Brown the pork in a cold, well-seasoned frying pan, adding no fat or oil. Sautes until very browned then add the polole. Deglaze the frying pan with 1 cup water, stirring to loosen the brown bits sticking to the pan. Also add these to the posole.

Add remaining ingredients, adding one-half the cumin and cook the stew for 1 or more hours, to blend the flavors. Just before serving, add the remaining cumin.


For more information about cultural traditions in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit our website at




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First Teacher Workshop a Success

From left: Teacher participants of the workshop, on the right CU Boulder Staff and SDCNHA Board Member Reyes Garcia

(Alamosa)-The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) is embarking on an educational journey through the history of the San Luis Valley with local educators.

The youth of the San Luis Valley are the key to passing on local culture and traditions to the next generation. Allowing them to actively engage in learning within the place they live empowers students to take ownership of local stories, fosters passion about their own educational journey, and creates a sense of pride in their communities. Students learn and retain this information best when locals within their community become actively involved in the learning process. Locals are already experts about the history, culture, and problems that need to be solved within their own communities. The elders of a community hold powerful and historically significant stories that honor local culture, history and traditions.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area aims to assist local educators in implementing this kind of place-based/community based learning. On November 3rd 2017, The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area partnered with Adams State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder to hold a one day workshop. Victoria Martinez, SdCNHA Executive Director, shared with local educators the heritage area’s collection of research, resources and oral history videos. Twenty-two San Luis Valley teachers from 5 school districts and one retired teacher registered for the workshop. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the heritage area’s collection of primary resources, research, and oral history videos that are available to local teachers for creating place-based curricula and the lesson plans that are already available for immediate implementation.

Boulder County teachers shared some of the lessons they are already utilizing in their classrooms. Teachers became students for the day and participated in hands-on activities. Educators also listened to guest speakers present on the history of the area and various projects that could provide content for lessons. At the end of the day Oneyda Maestas took educators on a field trip to ASU’s Cultural Awareness and Student Achievement (CASA) center.

“This teacher workshop was an integral opportunity to educate teachers on what is available to them. The ASU C.A.S.A. Center is excited to host students and to further promote culture and education to our SLV school districts. We would like for future children/students to know that they are welcome at the C.A.S.A. Center anytime and are always welcome to bring their parents and extended family members. My goal is for the C.A.S.A. Center to be a “field trip/excursion” location for place-based learning regarding culture, language, traditional foods, cooking in the hornos, the art of sheep-herding via our museum-like sheepherder’s trailer, the art of weaving, in addition to STEM activities (ASU mineral museum, ASU Planetarium, Volcanology Hydrology, palentogy,pottery making, art activities, music and traditional remedies. Our cultural and educational offerings will meet the K-12 State Standards for culture, history, language, science, art, music, and math!” Said Oneyda Maestas.

C.A.S.A. offers a hands-on weaver, a sheepherder who can tell the history and art of sheep herding and its importance in our valley; a tour of the C.A.S.A. Center’s sheepherder’s trailer from 1955; fire building in an horno and traditional horno foods; and a tortilla making workshop. All activities will offer vocabulary in English and Spanish.

“I don’t like attending workshops. It’s usually sitting and listening and they are all the same, but this one was fun.” said Phyllis Vigil, a first grade teacher from Sierra Grande.

One of the ways the SDCNHA has been documenting important pieces of oral history that can serve as supplemental resources for educators, is through the Voices of the Valley project. Voices of the Valley explores and documents, through interviews on video, the oral history from lifelong community members within the heritage area. Every week on the heritage areas YouTube channel (SangreNHA), new interview segments are posted, so everyone can freely participate in learning and holding on to the culture and stories of our local communities. Learn more about available lesson plans, and other heritage area projects at


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Four Valley sites to be nominated as National Historic Sites

SPMDTU #31, Chama, Colorado

In 1966 The National Historic Preservation Act was established by the National Park Service. As a result, the NPS now has a National Register of Historic Places. This year the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area received a grant in collaboration with History Colorado to nominate four sites in the heritage area for the national register. Three of the sites soon to be nominated are in Conejos County. The fourth site is in Costilla County.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area encompasses all of Conejos, Costilla, and Alamosa Counties. Currently, there are 10 sites on the national register in Conejos County, eight in Costilla County, and 13 in Alamosa County. To learn more about the already designated sites visit the heritage area’s website listed at the end of this article.

The Garcia Ranch has been in the family for generations, dating back to some of the first settlers in this area. It lies along the path many travelers took to cross this country. The designation will include the historic adobe family home, barn, adobe potato cellar, surrounding historic sheds, and the land surrounding these buildings.

The second site in Conejos County is Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Known as the oldest parish in Colorado, this building has a long and rich history in the area. Its twin pillars stand out in the agricultural landscape of Conejos, near Antonito. Conejos was the first settlement to have a church in 1857. The church was originally located in Guadalupe, where the people met in a small jacal on Sundays to recite the Rosary and a litany and to sing a few hymns. This parish was served by Father P. Montano from 1858 until 1860, when he was replaced by Father Vigil. In 1860 the church was moved to higher and drier ground and a small adobe church was built in the current location, and blessed by the famed bishop of Santa Fe, John Baptiste Lamy. Since then the church has grown in size and seen many architectural changes.


Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish                                       Historic picture of Saint Joseph’s Parish

The third site in the county is Saint Joseph’s Parish in Capulin. The beautiful stained glass windows and stonework on this historic Catholic church is stunning, as is the beautiful arched ceilings that can only be fully appreciated from the interior balcony. The nomination will include the church building, surrounding land, the historic iron fence on the east side, and the historic cemetery to the south. Originally, forty families from northern New Mexico received the Conejos Land Grant, some of those families settled in the community they named Capulin. The town was originally established in 1863, but after a fire they moved the town upstream to its current location in 1867. The original church was an adobe structure built in 1878. However, as the church and population grew so did the church. The bigger Saint Joseph’s Parish was built in 1888. On May 15, 1912 the cornerstone was laid for the current building by Rev. E.E. Vigil. Locals brought the stone to the town, by horse and wagon, from La Aguita (Hot Creek) quarry.

The site up for nomination in Costilla County is the S.P.D.T.U. building in Chama, Colorado. This small, historical building was once the hub of community gatherings. La Sociedad Proteccion Mutual de Trabajadores Unidos (the Society for the Mutual Protection of United Workers) was founded in 1900 by Celedonio Mondragon. The first building for this organization, Concilio #1, in Antonito is already on the National Register of Historic Places. This nomination recognizes the national significance of the organization. Together the two designations take locals and visitors on a journey from one county to the other as they discover the history of this amazing organization that played a pivotal role in the history of the Hispano people and our country.

Visit the Sangre de Cristo National heritage area website for more information

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Apply to attend SLV Place-based Teacher Workshop

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is proud to present the SLV Place-based Teacher Workshop

Event Address: Adams State Nielsen Library 1701 First St, Alamosa, CO 81101
Contact us at (719)-580-4070 or

This is a one-day teacher workshop on Friday, November 3, 2017, From 9am to 4pm, lunch will be provided, and all participants will earn continuing education units. A limited number of seats are available for this event so please sign up as soon as possible. Priority will be given to the school districts within the heritage area boundaries of Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla Counties, but all San Luis Valley teachers and administrators are invited to attend, whether currently employed, retired, or in training.

This workshop is a great opportunity to learn about and share what is already being done and what can be done in the future regarding place-based/community-based learning in the K-12 school districts of the San Luis Valley. The SLV’s wonderful and unique past make it a great location for students to learn about archaeology, Native American histories, Hispanic history and culture, adobe architecture, our natural environment, conservation, and much more.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area has partnered with Adams State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder to bring trainers experienced in creating curricula in line with Colorado state standards that focus on the local culture, history, and heritage. Come learn about the heritage area’s collection of primary sources, research, and oral history videos that will be available to local teachers for creating place-based lesson plans and the lesson plans that are available for immediate implementation.

Click here to apply

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Now Hiring

If you enjoy promoting cultural preservation, heritage tourism, and the history of the San Luis Valley then come thrive in our friendly and collaborative environment.


Marketing and Outreach Assistant

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is seeking to hire a part time Marketing & Outreach Assistant.

Desired Qualifications:

  • Marketing experience
  • Excellent writing and editing skills
  • Ability to pay attention to detail
  • Strong oral and written communications skills
  • Experience with social media use and analytics
  • Knowledge of print and radio media marketing is a plus
  • Ability to prioritize and multi-task
  • Experience working with WordPress is a plus
  • Bachelor’s degree is a plus
  • 2 year’s relevant work experience
  • Ability to lift 20 pounds

Pay is $15-$18 per hour based on experience.


Fall Intern

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is seeking to hire a Fall intern.

This is a student position for a high school or college student age 16 or older.

Student will work on archiving documents and various community outreach efforts.

Student will work 10 hours a week, pay is $12/hr.


To apply for these positions send a letter of interest and resume/CV to with the subject line “job applicant” by October 13th, 2017.


Board Member Position

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) is seeking to fill several volunteer board member position from residents in Costilla and Conejos Counties. If you enjoy cultural preservation, heritage tourism, and historical work then come thrive in our friendly and collaborative environment.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) Board of Directors provides the opportunity for local residents to become engaged in a leadership role.  Volunteers in these positions represent the voice of citizens in support of local heritage preservation efforts and the community-oriented mission of the Heritage Area, and are willing to commit to one meeting per month and participation on sub-committees.

Local projects have included historic building rehabilitation, interpretation of historic and scenic/recreational sites, educational programming and cultural events, and documentation of culturally significant components of traditional ways of life. These efforts seek to contribute to community building or heritage tourism, promote a spirit of pride and create a legacy in the Colorado counties of Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla.


Applicants are encouraged to attend the next Board of Directors meeting on October 18th, 2017.


We also encourage applicants to visit the SdCNHA’s website and review the organization’s Goals and Objectives, found on the Management Plan page:


Applications can be found on the website:

Completed applications and attachments should be mailed or hand delivered to the SdCNHA at the address noted below:

Mail to:

Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area

Attention: “Board Position”

P.O. Box 844

Alamosa, CO 81101


Or hand deliver to: 623 4th Street, Alamosa

Or email to

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Latino Heritage Intern Completes Service in the Valley

Marissa Ortega (far left) with the middle school Junior Archaeology camp


Marissa Ortega, Latino Heritage Intern, completed her service hours at the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Marissa is a recent graduate of Texas A&M University where she received her B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. She plans to continue her education by pursing a Masters in environmental policy and sustainable development.

The Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) is designed to address the lack of Latinos working in the National Park Service. “The NPS has a number of national internship programs that focus on increasing opportunities for diverse populations and ethnic groups. These programs include: The NPS Student Conservation Association (SCA) Academy, the Cultural Resources Diversity Intern Program, Mosaics in Science, the Ancestral Lands program, and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Intern Program. None of these programs specifically target the fastest growing population group in the United States of America and the most underrepresented group in the NPS workforce. This program hopes to address this challenge,” – the LHIP organization.

Marissa shared her housing experience during her time in the Valley, “I live in a shared house inside the park and the view from my window is breathtaking, as I wake up every morning to the sun rising above the snow-capped mountains.”

                                                                                                 Marissa Ortega (left) and Tori Martinez, Executive Director of SdCNHA (right) At a booth at the SummerFest


Marissa assisted the heritage area with a booth at the SummerFest where she helped youth bob for duckies. Later in the summer she helped with the Junior Archaeologist Camp. She also planned her own programming for youth at the Sand Dunes. Other activities included water research, visitor services at the Sand Dunes, and GPS mapping.

Marisa said her favorite place in the Valley was Zapata Falls, It’s “where the most beautiful and most accessible waterfall is in Mosca. The hike is only half a mile and the view is spectacular. Considering that I am from sea level, hikes are really difficult for me here at Great Sand Dunes because we sit at 8,000 feet in elevation, so a mile hike uphill is exhausting and I feel like I just ran a marathon.”

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is committed to working with interns both locally and through programs such as the Latino Heritage Internship.

For information on other internship opportunities with the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit the website at


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