San Luis Valley showcased as ‘Birthplace of Colorado’
WHEN Alliance for National Heritage Areas members arrive Monday, Oct. 10, for their 2022 Fall Conference in Alamosa, Julie Chacon has a plan: Show them why the San Luis Valley is considered the birthplace of Colorado.
That means visits to the towns of Conejos and San Luis, trips to see the Garcia/Espinosa/Garland Ranch circa 1885, learning about nine historic mission churches in Costilla County, and touring other historical landmarks that make the Valley a must-see if you’re a historical and cultural enthusiast.
Chacon is a native of Capulin and the executive director of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Her Capulin roots and role with the SdCNHA make her the perfect host for around 150 individuals attending the Alliance for National Heritage Areas 2022 Fall Conference.
The check-in for the national conference is Monday. They will go on a tour bus Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to visit what constitutes the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.
“This is truly a unique place,” Chacon told The Citizen earlier this year during a podcast episode. “The birth of Colorado is right here in the Valley. A lot of people say San Luis, a lot of people say Los Sauces, a lot of people say Los Rincones, but it’s just the whole Valley that is the birthplace of Colorado.”
Listen to this Valley Pod episode with Julie Chacon as she explains the role of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, how it came to be in 2009 through Congressional designation, and the efforts now for reauthorization and ongoing funding from Congress.
Hosting the Alliance for National Heritage Areas conference is a big deal for Chacon, the board members of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, History Colorado which has poured millions into preserving historical sites, and Visit Alamosa officials who work to land outside groups.
When they’re not on the tour bus visiting sites, attendees will hear presentations on the Maestas Case, the education desegregation case that the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area helped bring to light. They will dine at longstanding restaurants like Dutch Mill in Antonito, and be entertained by Semilla de la Tierra dance group and other performers.
“Going through high school and elementary school and middle school, the only things you ever hear about the Valley are in five sentences in any textbook,” Chacon said of the educational mission of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.
In its 10-plus years of existence, the SDCNHA work transformed how the history of the San Luis Valley is narrated and presented. With the arrival of the larger Alliance for National Heritage Areas group, the understanding of the historical meaning of the San Luis Valley will continue to grow.