AS good fortune would have it the Alliance for National Heritage Areas members timed their 2022 Fall Conference in the San Luis Valley just right. They became the first large tour group to get a look at El Santuario de los Pobladores adobe sanctuary in Conejos, a project at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish that’s been years in the making and is nearing completion some 40,000 adobe bricks later.
Hosted by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, the Alliance for National Heritage members arrived in two full tour buses Tuesday for their look at El Santuario de los Pobladores and its reflection of the Mysteries of the Rosary and the life of Christ. It was among the first-day stops for Alliance for National Heritage members in their week-long tour of Conejos, Costilla and Alamosa counties.
El Santuario de los Pobladores is a convenient stop because it puts the tourist in the heart of Conejos and in the vicinity of two of the most historical places in the Valley – Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the oldest church in Colorado; and the Lafayette Head compound, circa 1850s, that is under renovation by Ronald Rael, professor of architecture at UC-Berkeley and a Conejos native.
Add the soon-to-be completed El Santuario de los Pobladores and its sanctuary maze, and in short order every person who seeks a historical and spiritual reflection of the San Luis Valley will find their way to Conejos just as Alliance for National Heritage members did.
“It’s beautiful,” a couple from Utah said as they toured the sanctuary with Los Pobladores guides Alfonso Abeyta and Cloy Richards. Abeyta has the history of the project down, from the $40,000 seed money given by Josephine Salazar to Rael’s involvement in the design and the adobe-brick making.
After El Santuario de los Pobladores it was off to the nearby Lafayette Head compound and the Garcia/Espinosa/Garland Ranch Headquarters, circa 1885, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places in Colorado.
In walking just a few feet, Alliance for National Heritage Areas members went back in time to Conejos of the 1880s, when Conejos played a significant role in the San Luis Valley and Colorado, including having the first grain mill in the state.
It was the type of day heritage and cultural explorers love. For Alliance for National Heritage Areas members, there’s more to see on Wednesday and Thursday, including visits to San Luis, the People’s Ditch, and the Miracle of San Acacio.
The tour of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area continues.