CONEJOS COUNTY — Conejos County is home to many unique and culturally significant murals representing the history and culture of the region. Recognizing this, the Conejos County Tourism Council has undertaken a multi-phased project spread over several years to highlight the most accessible of these murals and to preserve some of the most damaged murals. Murals have been a long-standing cultural traditional in the area as a way to tell stories.
Phase three of the project engaged master muralist Fred Haberlein to restore and conserve four of the most endangered murals he originally created some 30 years ago. Haberlein, also known as Lightning Heart, has created more than 140 murals across the country during his career, and is continuing to add more to his collection every year. Currently, a documentary film is being produced about his life and his artwork. Haberlein grew up in the Conejos Canyon and graduated from Antonito High School.
The restored murals tell the stories of visitors and inhabitants of the area like the Utes, Hispano and Mormon settlers, natural surroundings, wildlife, and folklore. The Murals of Conejos County, a self-drive tour of a collection of murals in Conejos County, guides the traveler through the towns of Antonito, Manassa, Romeo and La Jara. A brochure map detailing the drive is available at tourist outlets throughout Conejos County and the San Luis Valley.
Restoring and conserving the murals is a way to ensure this unique form of public art is accessible to future generations. The artist also conducted three workshops in Conejos County school districts to inspire future generations to continue this long-standing tradition.
This project was generously funded by the Conejos County Tourism Council, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, El Pomar Foundation, the town of Antonito, and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.
Tori Martinez, executive director of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA), said “the heritage area supports local projects such as this to promote cultural expression, to build community pride, for cultural preservation, and encourage community beautification.”
The murals that were restored are, “The History of the San Luis Valley” a 40’ high series of murals on 4 silos, “Questzalcoatl de Nuevo Aztlan – The Great Water Serpent of the Rio Grande” an 8’ X 48’ mural, both of these are on the north side of Antonito. The “Whooping Cranes” mural is on a brick silo located near the town of Romeo. “Shepherd’s Sunrise,” tops the Valdez Building and is an 8’ X 38’ mural on Main Street in La Jara.
For these and other murals along the route of the “Murals of Conejos County” contact Conejos County Tourism or drop by tourism outlets throughout the San Luis Valley for a self-drive guide map. For more information about Conejos County Tourism visit their website http://conejosvacation.com/
For more information about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website http://sdcnha.org/wp/
Caption: Quetzalcoatl de Nuevo Aztlan, Antonito by Fred Haberlein