Folk Music and Dance
LOS VECINOS BAILADORES
LAS SEMILLAS DE LA TIERRA
Folklore of the Spanish-speaking people of the heritage area has been passed down through many generations. It became an intrinsic and social part of those families who settled here. The story-teller became an important part of the social structure in the community. When the children had finished their chores for the day the storyteller would gather them to tell them his cuentos (stories). The folklore included stories of brujerilla (witchcraft) and tesorros (treasures).
The mountains are full of legends of old Spanish, French, Indian and other treasures buried hundreds of years ago, stories passed from generation to generations from padre to hijo(father to son). When searching for such treasures, partners must do it in the best spirit of friendship, for any form of jealousy, could cause arouse in the spirit and cause compete loss of the tesoro to the mountains.
Stories of witches inspired curiosity about old, unmarried women that could turn themselves into owls or balls of fire or cast spells. A curse could be cast by a tap on the back or by a food eaten. Omens and superstitions were widely believed and practiced. To ease teething one would hang a dime around a baby’s neck. Pregnant women should take heed and stay indoors during an eclipse of the sun or moon or risk a deformed child. If a pregnant woman dropped a fork she would have a boy and if she dropped a spoon she would have a girl. A hail storm could be stopped by using salt to make the form of a cross outside of the front door. Wearing a beaded coral bracelet prevented “evil eye”.
The evil eye, “El Ojo” was a belief that one must take care on how, with eye to eye contact, on shows affection for another person, because unknown power can intercede and the person receiving the affection can get violently ill. Should this illness happen only a prescribed ritual(unique to each village) such as giving water by mouth or spoon can restore the ill back to good health.
La Llorona, the wailing woman, is a classic legend and variations of this tale can be found in African, Aztec, American Indian, Gaelic, Greek and Mexican Folklore. Each local village had slight differences in their own version. The southern Colorado version is a more contemporary take on the tale. It is of a young girl with an unwanted pregnancy. Her fear of family and community disappointment pushes here to drop her newborn in the river. A short time later she dies and is condemned by God to look for the child’s body forever. As she wanders the streams for eternity she wails in desperation and can still be heard as a reminder to other young girls to be good. Local lore also states that you must not be at the river at night or she will snatch you for her own.
This legend has been passed down by word of mouth for generations. San Acacio is a village built of chorreras, or a continuous line of adobe houses that formed a square around the central plaza. It is said that on a common day, when men were working in the fields and women were washing wool, an elder named Eusebio Valdez, was sitting on a stump saw a cloud of dust at the end of the llano, or prairie, that was increasing in size. He cried, “Indios!”. The attackers halted, then the leader jabbed his lance to point to the village to signal the attack. Eusebio Valdez fell to his knees and begged San Acacio to: “Implore the Lord God for deliverance from this terrible punishment vistited upon the defenseless people.” When the Utes were about 300 varas away they stopped. The townspeople saw them point above the adobe homes and yelled towards the sky. The Utes then turned and retreated. Many years later, after a great snow storm, and old Ute man was found almost frozen and taken in a cared for. He spoke some Spanish and told the story of the day of the attack. “A giant man with a great sword, and riding a fierce white stallion hovered over the settlement on that fateful day. There was strong medicine in that village and the braves took it as an omen that the Great Spirit was a protector of that village. We were afraid and we left.” An this is how the legend of San Acacio came to be.
El que mal hace, bien no espere.
He who does wrong will not encounter good.
Mas vale callar que locamente hablar
Better to be silent than to speak foolishly.
A buen hambre no hay pan duro.
To great hunger, no bread is hard.
Secreto entre tres no es secreto.
A secret among three is no secret.
Despues de la tormenta viene la calma.
After the storm comes the calm.
Cada cabeza es su propio mundo.
Each head is a world to itself.
El pescado y la visita al tercer dia apestan.
A fish and a visit smell by the third day.
La vida se vive dia a dia.
Life is lived one day at a time.
Santa Ana Festival
Santa Ana y Santiago Fiesta celebrates the Patron Saints of local churches, Saint Ann (Immaculate Conception Church) and Saint James (The Mission Church), held annually the last weekend of July. Many former San Luis resident’s return to San Luis to celebrate this heritage festival sponsored by the historic Sangré de Cristo Parish. The town has been celebrating this event for over 100 years. Parades, horses, music, vendors and church events take place during this annual two-day weekend festival. This event is held the last weekend of July each year.
Manassa Pioneer Days
Families swarm to the small town of Manassa each summer to celebrate generations of pioneer settlement in Conejos County. They celebrate all the people who overcame hardship to settle and make lives in this rural place. The celebration is a 5 day event that includes carnival rides, fair food, free entertainment, Miss Pioneer princesses, an old west Rodeo, a demolition derby and two days of a massive parade with extrodinary floats.
Early Iron Festival
The Early Iron Festival happens each year in Alamosa. The festival brings visitors from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Utah and Kansas. The show, which started in 1980, now draws well over 600 rodders and street car enthusiasts.
The Early Iron Festival is a 3 day event for participants starting on Friday and ending on Sunday. It’s full of parties, music, vintage nitro, pinstriping, slow cruising, and of course, awesome hot rod displays.
Summer Fest on the Rio
Summer Fest on the Rio kicks off the start to the Summer season in the San Luis Valley. This annual festival happens in Alamosa’s Cole Park on the first full weekend in June each year. It is filled with arts and craft booths, free musical performances, activities for the kids and plenty of food and drink options along the mighty Rio Grande.
Beat the Heat
Beat the heat happens yearly in Alamosa and features a BBQ competition, corn hole tournament, mud run, hot pepper eating contest and local craft brewery tastings.
Cinco de Mayo Celebration
Cinco de Mayo was first commemorated in California to celebrate the values of democracy, civil rights, social justice and freedom, at a time when these values had been in danger because of slavery, racism and the idea that only the wealthy upper class should govern a country.
The celebration commemorates 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.
This was also 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. Each year the communities gather in Alamosa to celebrate.
Round Up Rodeo
For almost 40 years Alamosa has been home to the Round-UP Rodeo. The 3 day event features an Old West Cattle Drive down main stree, live music, a block party, demolition derby, mutton busting, cowboy church, 5k and a professional PRCA Rodeo.
Santa Ana Festival
Manassa Pioneer Days
Early Iron Festival
Summer Fest on the Rio
Beat the Heat
Cinco de Mayo Celebration
Round Up Rodeo
The Spanish revolutionized textile production in the Southwest with the introduction of the treadle loom in 1638. Sheep were brought by the Spanish and were sources of hardy fibers for the weaving of jergas, sarapes and colchas. These Churro sheep are renowned for their hardiness and adaptability to extremes of climate. And they are known for their wool, which has been used for centuries for fiber arts like colcha and weaving.
Historically, weaving was a basic necessity to Hispano settlers as families had to produce cloth for clothing, blankets and rugs. Weaving ﬂourished in the San Luis Valley until factors combined to make it impractical: the introduction of ready made clothing and manufactured cloth after the opening of the Spanish Trail in 1821 and later by the railroad after 1877; the replacement of the Spanish Churro sheep and its long silky wool with the Rambouillet sheep’s short, greasy wool; the end of the trade with the Utes, which stopped the supply of Navajo criados (Indian servants) to help in the laborious processing of the wool. Weaving in the San Luis Valley, however, still continues as an art form. Within the heritage area several weavers continue to teach, weave, and market their own woven pieces. Within the heritage area several weavers continue to teach, weave, and market their own woven pieces.
In the late 1940s, Eppie moved with her husband, Frank Archuleta, and their eight children to the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. There, they worked in the potato and lettuce fields and raised sheep. When the children were not in school, they joined their parents in the fields.
Archuleta processed her own wool by carding, spinning, and dyeing it with vegetable dyes. Once these steps were completed, her wool was ready to be woven on the loom. During the day she stayed busy working and cooking for her family. At night, she did her spinning and weaving. “Everybody’s asleep so I can weave. All by myself. Nobody bothers me.” Examples of her work, including a tapestry depicting a wounded soldier during the Vietnam War, are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.. Archuleta was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985 and she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 1997.
Colcha embroidery, or stitching, is a special technique attributed to special wool-on-wool textiles in the American Southwest during the Spanish colonial period. Colchas typically depict religious images or scenes from everyday life, and were used to record a stitcher’s memories.
Like weaving, colcha embroidery also reﬂects the importance of sheep and wool to the region’s economic history. Colchas were often used as altar cloths and altar carpets in Catholic churches and in the home as coverlets. In fact, the word colcha means ‘coverlet’ in Spanish
A nine-foot by twelve- foot tapestry in the Colorado State Capitol honors the women who were integral in the settlement and development of Colorado.
One of the women depicted in is Genoveva Gallegos-Salazar, from San Luis is. She is in a red Spanish dress with a black veil, standing by a river.
Genoveva was the daughter of Don Dario Gallegos who established first mercantile business in Colorado. He also assisted with the building of the San Luis People’s Ditch in 1852, and helped establish the first water rights in Colorado.
According to information, the massive project incorporated hand-stitched embroidery and applique on Irish linen , took over 4,500 hours to complete, 1,600 expert artisans, 1,800 amateurs and imported skilled #artisans from thirty eight states and nine countries. (Info from State Capitol brochure and Colorado State website).
In 2019, Josephine Lucero was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). The artist is from San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, and began learning the art of colcha in her 50s at a local workshop at the Sangre de Cristo Parish. Her goal as an artist is to make sure that stories don’t disappear.
Before synthetic dyes reached weavers in the southwest in the late 1860s, natural dyes of vegetable and mineral origin were used. Most of the dyes were obtained locally and the techniques of extracting the colors were learned from natives. Chamiso, or rabbitbush, is a dominant plant in the semi-arid valley and a primary source of yellow dye. The Spanish did import indigo and cochineal as there is no record of indigo being grown in New Mexico or southern Colorado. With these two imports providing red and purple, and having yellow, most any color could be produced. Because wool does not readily accept color well a mordant is necessary. In colonial times the most common mordant was human urine left to ferment. Later alum and vinegar and tin were used.
After the yarn has been washed, in most cases, it should be mordanted. Place in an aluminum kettle with enough water to cover the yarn. To this add six tablespoons for each pound of yarn, stir until the water become quite warm. As soon as it is warm drop in the yarn and let simmer for thirty minutes, being careful to keep the yarn covered by water at all times. After thirty minutes of simmering the yarn should be placed in a sack and hung in the shade to dry. Do not wring the yarn but allow it to drain dry.
Mordanted yarn must be used when dyeing with Chamiso, Willow, Walnut Hulls, Hierba de la piedra and alder bark.
Frederick Fitzjarrald Haberlein, Lightning Heart, was born December 7, 1944. He was given the moniker of “lighting heart” because of the speed of which he completed his works. His name is often signed with his trademark symbol of a heart with bolts of lightning. He grew up at the Conejos Ranch on the Conejos River in southern Colorado. Fred graduated from Antonito High School, attended Colorado State University with a degree in sculpture and anthropology and attended graduate school at Arizona State University, where he studied printmaking. During and after graduate school, Haberlein lived in Oracle, Arizona., working alongside other artists at Rancho Linda Vista. In 1984, Fred returned to Conejos Ranch and began painting murals in Colorado, the first of which was a Virgin Mary for his high school classmate Johnny Johnson, who was nearly killed in the Vietnam War.
Haberlein went on to complete 80 murals in the San Luis Valley before moving to Glenwood Springs with his wife, Teresa Platt, in 1988. He continued mural work, completing 140 pieces of public art including pictures on the main streets of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Leadville, Gunnison, Salida, Alamosa, LaJara, Romeo and Antonito. For 18 years, Haberlein taught Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain at Colorado Mountain College.
One of his more recent projects was the repainting of a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2016 in Antonito, through a grant from the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area,which he completed despite being diagnosed with esophageal cancer and undergoing treatment at the time.
Fred loved native American culture, painting, juggling, hiking, skiing and hanging out with friends. He is survived by his wife, Teresa; brother, Bill; son, Kort, and daughter-in-law, Sandy; and 2 grandchildren, West and Ryan.
“Visual culture offers a fascinating window into the expressive traditions of individual communities. Few forms of visual culture are as public as murals, which artists often design with a functional or instructive purpose in clear mind. Because artists often construct murals in open, public spaces where relatively high levels of human traffic exist, such works provide a useful medium to reach a broad range of viewers. The this end, they prove an enduring democratic art form and an invaluable resource for educators of all kinds. In a much broader capacity, murals also serve as on of the more useful means to convey and affirm community values and traditions.” Charles Nick Saenz, PhD
Santos, from the Spanish word meaning saints, is a folk art found in the southern San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico that produces santos, painted carvings depicting religious ﬁgures. Santos carved in the round are called bultos. They are usually carved from cottonwood root, pine, or aspen. The carvers are known as santeros, honored artists who experience their craft as a holy calling. This tradition descends from 15th century Spanish colonization of the Americas, when ecclesiastical authorities could not supply parishes in remote outposts with works of religious art. The ﬁrst santos are thought to have been imitations of Spanish Baroque statues carved by priests. Later santos were inﬂuenced by native styles.
Retablos are paintings of saints or holy persons painted on wood.
Striking bronze statues by internationally renowned sculptor Huberto Maestas illustrate the Stations of the Cross along a steep trail to the top of San Pedro Mesa overlooking San Luis. It was all inspired by a local priest and built by the hands and funds of parish congregants and donors, dedicated in 1990. Maestas, who grew up on a nearby Costilla County ranch and started sculpting as a santero, returned to San Luis for the project and has made his home and studio there since. Sometimes called the Way of the Cross, the object of the Stations is to help the faithful meditate upon scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. It has become one of the most popular devotions for Roman Catholics, and the trail in San Luis has drawn visitors from around the world