Sangre de Cristo National Heritage area celebrates 10 years

In 2009, then-Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar, Sen. Mark Udall and, with the help of Congressman Jon Salazar and local advocates, worked to establish the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) Act.

On March 30, 2009 the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area was designated by Congress as on official U.S. National Heritage Area.

National Heritage Areas are places where natural, historical and cultural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes. National heritage areas are intended to encourage historic and cultural and natural preservation and appreciation of the area. Unlike National Parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, National Heritage Areas entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs.

In 1984, the first National Heritage Area, Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area, was signed into law by Pres. Ronald Reagan. In his dedication speech, Reagan referred to National Heritage Areas “a new kind of national park” that married heritage conservation, recreation, and economic development. Today, the program includes 55 National Heritage Areas across the country. Each area has its own authorizing legislation and a set of unique resources and goals. Areas considered for designation must have specific elements. First, the landscape must be a nationally unique natural, cultural, historic, or scenic resource. Second, when the related sites are linked, they must tell a unique story about America.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area will be celebrating this milestone anniversary by providing three free community events in 2019.

The first event will be the second annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration and Block Party. The event will take place on Saturday, May 4 on San Juan Ave, outside of the San Luis Valley Brewing Co. in Alamosa from 5-11p.m. The family-friendly event will feature traditional Spanish folk dances by Los Vecinos Bailadores, cultural music by Mariachi San Luis and the Spanish rock sounds of long-time local band, Indian Nickel, who is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

Street tacos will be available as well as a Margarita and beer garden.

History Colorado will kick of the event at 5 p.m. by honoring the four San Luis Valley locations that have been recently added the National Register of Historic Places.

These locations include: Our Lady of Guadalupe in Conejos, St. Joseph Parish in Capulin, the Garcia Ranch in Conejos County and the Chama Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos (SPMTU). Cinco de Mayo was first commemorated by Latino men and women in California to celebrate the values of democracy, civil rights, social justice and freedom, at a time when these values had been in danger from slavery, racism and the idea that only the wealthy, upper class should govern a country. It celebrates the Mexican success at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 against the French forces. The victory at that battle was a morale booster for Californians. Many who originated from Mexico or had been living on their soils before the lands were U.S. territories, which was true for the people who settled here in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. Success at this battle demonstrated that the small but mighty forces could overcome larger, seemingly more powerful forces.


The second event will be the viewing of a 30-minute documentary about the founding of Los Rincones, Los Cerritos and Manassa. The documentary is being filmed in partnership with Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area and Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area and follows history that connects all three current day heritage areas. The viewing will be free to the public and held on Friday, July 19 at 1 p.m. in the opera house in Manassa during Pioneer Days. The video will speak about acequia irrigation and its vital importance to the early settlements of the SdCNHA and bring awareness to the fact that it is an ancient practice still used in our heritage area today. A narrative will show how modern day Manassa was settled because of shared water practices and cooperation between ethnic groups who were able to overlook cultural, religious and linguistic differences.

Fort Garland

The third event will take place at the Fort Garland Museum on Sept. 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the Borderland Exhibit Opening in Fort Garland. The permanent, bilingual exhibit, located in the Pueblo History Museum, focuses on southern Colorado’s geo-political border history, as well as the region’s historic and ongoing borders of cultures, ethnicities, landscapes, industries, religions and identities. The stories told in the borderlands of Southern Colorado exhibit are happening now at the Fort Garland museum and getting richer. Join authors, artists, scholars, and activists from around the country this fall for this lecture series as they deepen discussions an complicate narratives on various Borderlands topics. All talks are free and open to the public.

The Borderlands Lecture Series is going on now with featured free lectures happening May 4, May 11, May 23 and June 12.

For more information on the lecture series speakers and times visit

SdCNHA will also be launching a new website mid-summer, where you can learn more about local history, culture and landscapes in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. The project is under the direction of SdCNHA’s Marketing and Outreach Specialist, Katie Dokson and local video production, web design and business marketing company Vinrock Media, owned and operated by Vince Lujan and Elizabeth Zurn.

Over the past 10 years, SdCNHA has partnered with numerous nonprofits, community organizations and federal, state and local governmental agencies to preserve and promote the unique stories, cultural and natural resources.

Since 2009, SdCNHA has provided over 60 grants to local organizations and programs that benefit our heritage area. Our successful grant recipient projects have included but are not limited to: historical interpretive signage, surveying medicinal plants used in the area, archaeological surveys, archaeological field schools, collecting local oral histories, preserving historical murals, lecture series, local acequia support, youth programs, land conservation easements, restoring historical buildings and much much more. If you are interested in applying for the 2020 Grant Cycle, which is open for applications from April 1 through June 1, 2019 visit

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area encompasses: Alamosa County, Conejos County, Costilla County, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Alamosa Wildlife Refuge, Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge and the Baca Wildlife Refuge. It’s home to Colorado’s first Hispano, Railroad and Agricultural communities, a current melting pot of Native American, Hispano, Mormon, German, Dutch, Japanese and Amish cultures. With more than 11,000 years of documented inhabitation, this is where Colorado began.

If you would like to volunteer please contact us at [email protected] If you would like to give a donation to assist the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area in future work, you can drop off a donation at our office on 623 Fourth St. in Alamosa; mail one to P.O. Box 844 Alamosa, CO 81101; or visit our website


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