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Southern Colorado Settlements 1850


The Villages of San Luis, San Francisco, San Pedro, San Acacio, Vallejos, and San Pablo were established by Hispano settlers in the 1850’s along the Rio Culebra in the San Luis Valley.  Each village had its own capilla (chapel). Without parish priests, the Hispanos brought the traditions and practices of La Sociedad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (the Society of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene), also known as los Hermanos Penitentes. Los Hermanos built moradas outside their villages where religious activities and Lenten processions were held.


Since their establishment in 1851, the villages of the Rio Culebra of Costilla County and their
associated cultural landscapes have been representative of early Hispano settlement in Colorado. Elements of the Culebra village cultural landscape include domestic, religious, and agricultural buildings, long-lot field patterns, or, gravity-based irrigation ditches, or acequias, and a community pasture, or la vega.

The vernacular architecture of the villages incorporated and retained hybridized styles characteristic of the outside influences introduced into the Rio Culebra during its period of
significance. The siting of the villages at the southeast margin of the San Luis Valley and the resulting mosaic evolved in four distinctive periods between 1851 and 1964. The formative settlement period from 1851 to 1878 marked the early migration of Hispanos from Taos Valley, the establishment of fortified plazas, and the shaping of the agropastoral landscape. A central characteristic of this era was the introduction of the cash economy. Once this economy supplanted bartering, settlers, or pobladores, sold their agricultural surpluses to nearby Fort Garland and early mining camps in Colorado’s Piedmont.

 The second epoch from 1879 to 1918 heralded the arrival of the railroad into the San Luis Valley. Laden with commercially manufactured materials and eastern emigrants with differing perspectives on land ownership and land use, the railroad stimulated the introduction of new building materials and construction styles. The intervening period between 1919 and 1945 marks a period of economic decline and then New Deal efforts to overcome the Great Depression by undertaking road, bridge, and other public works projects. The decades between 1946 and 1964 denotes the Great Society's post-war effort to combat persistent poverty by promoting standardized housing. Ultimately, this period marked the enclosure of the last remaining upland commons after a century of litigation by the heirs of the original pobladores.

These four periods and their accompanying changes in the landscape and built environment reflect the evolution of Hispano vernacular architecture and cultural landscape in southern Colorado.

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