The mission of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is to promote, preserve, protect,and interpret its profound historical, religious, environmental, geographic, geologic, cultural, and linguistic resources. These efforts will contribute to the overall national story, engender a spirit of pride and self-reliance, and create a legacy in the Colorado counties of Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla.

With 11,000 years of documented human habitation, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is a crossroads of the centuries. Here a unique blend of Native American, Hispano and Anglo settlement is reflected in the diversity of the people, art and traditions. The geographic isolation of our high desert valley and the peoples’ enduring ties to the land have given rise to a rich cultural heritage and ensured its preservation. The area’s fertile cultural landscape is complemented by remarkable natural resources, including the mighty Rio Grande, majestic Rocky Mountain peaks, Great Sand Dunes National Park, National Wildlife Refuges, and the high mountain desert, all of which lend the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area an unparalleled beauty that offers a sense of retreat and a powerful source of inspiration for visitors.

Three Primary Goals:

  • Support development of a vibrant heritage tourism sector that stimulates preservation, economic development, and community revitalization.
  • Tell the stories of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area in ways that build community pride and support preservation, living traditions, economic development, and community revitalization.
  • Cultivate excellent management that provides regional leadership, reflects community values, and achieves sustainability.

Primary Interpretive Themes

 A High Desert Valley’s Wind, Water, and Sand Dunes

The delicate interplay of wind, water, and sand have shaped the San Luis Valley’s unique landforms and contributed to its biological diversity. Though receiving little rainfall, the Valley’s hidden aquifers support extensive wetlands that are home to globally unique plant and animal species and are a migration stopover for many birds.

Land of the Blue Sky People

Interwoven with the Valley’s natural history is a very long and rich human history. The San Luis Valley served prehistoric and Native American cultures as a seasonal hunting ground where fowl, game, and edible and medicinal plants were bountiful. Select landscape features within the Valley have long been revered as sacred.

 Interwoven Peoples and Traditions

The San Luis Valley is a place where different peoples have converged for thousands of years. The Valley’s profound historical, religious, and cultural convergence remains visible in the landscape and can be experienced in its communities, art, food, lodging, and events.

 Hispano Culture: Folklore, Religion and Language

The lower San Luis Valley lies at the intersection of the Hispano Southwest and Anglo Rocky Mountain West where the flavor of Hispano culture thrives. The Valley’s relative isolation has preserved a living cultural tradition where art, language, architecture, folklore, and religious traditions remain evocative of the region’s early Spanish and Mexican settlers.

What is a National Heritage Area?

A National Heritage Area is designated by Congress for its unique nationally significant qualities and resources. It is a place where a combination of natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources have shaped a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape.

A National Heritage Area employs a partnership approach to heritage development involving collaborative planning around a theme, industry and/or geographical feature that influenced the nation’s culture and history. This planning strategy encourages residents, government agencies, nonprofit groups and private partners to agree on and prioritize programs and projects that recognize, preserve and celebrate many of America’s defining landscapes.

A National Heritage Area seeks short- and long-term solutions to conservation and development challenges by fostering relationships among regional stakeholders and encouraging them to work collaboratively to achieve shared goals.

Board of Directors

Nick Saenz serves as Associate Professor of History at Adams State University. In recent years, he was featured as an interviewee on “Settling the Sand Dunes,” an episode of Rocky Mountain PBS’s Colorado Experience, and contributed to the development of the Borderlands of Southern Colorado exhibits, currently on display at History Colorado museums. Nick holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago (2005) and both MA (2009) and PhD (2013) degrees from the University of California, San Diego.

President Nick Saenz
Alamosa County

Hew Hallock is Director of Research for the San Luis Valley Development Resources since August 2010. His background is in journalism having been the founder of a small weekly newspaper in Southeast Colorado, the Editor of the Lamar Daily News, and the Editor of the Valley Courier. Just prior to joining the staff of SLVDRG, Hew was the Southern Colorado Region Representative for the Governor’s Energy Office, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency programs throughout the regions. Hew is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and holds a BA in Political Science. He is a native of Southeast Colorado and has lived in the San Luis Valley since 2002.

Vice President Hew Hallock

Born and raised in Manassa. Graduated Centauri High School. Worked at our family business, Donald’s Service, in Manassa (30 years). Served on the Manassa Town board, from 2010 to present have been Conejos County Commissioner. Married in 1992 to Kristi Hicks. Together have five children and one grandson. Actively involved in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Treasurer  Mitchell Jarvies
Conejos County Commissioner

I have a BA from Gettysburg College, an M.Ed from Boston College and a JD from the Washington College of Law (American University). Helen is a County Commissioner for Alamosa County.

Secretary Helen Sigmond
Alamosa County Commissioner

A native of Capulin, Dennis Lopez was raised by parents who taught him to strive to be his best and treat others respectfully. Taught by Catholic nuns who set high standards and expectations, Dennis was encouraged to pursue a college education. Dennis recieved a BA in Foreign Languages(Spanish and French), and Chicano Studies and earned his Master's Degree from Adams State College in 1978 in the field of Secondary Education. In 1992, he received his Educational Leadership certification from the University of Denver. He taught Chicano Studies placing emphasis on the Hispanic culture of the upper Rio Grande region for 18 years. In 1986, Dennis served as Activiteies Director, Asst. Principal and Principal of Alamosa High School until 2002. He went on to serve as Principal of Sierra Grande Middle and High School, as TIlte V Director at Adams State University and is currently a Case Manager at Valley-Wide Health Systems in Alamosa. Dennis is one of the founding board members of SdCNHA, founding member of Adobe de Oro Concilio de Artes, Co-chair of the SLV Chapter of Colorado Latino Forum and numerous other community organizations.

Bessie Konishi
Alamosa County

Reyes earned a B.A. in 1974 and then a Ph.D. in Philosophy from CU-Boulder in 1988, after teaching as a Visiting Instructor at The Colorado College for the previous five years. He retired as a full Professor of Philosophy after teaching Environmental Studies, Southwest Studies, Indigenous Studies and, of course, Philosophy 1988-2011 at Fort Lewis College. During that time he was also an Endowed Chair of Southwestern Studies at CC and a Post Doctoral Fellow in The Center for Chicano Studies at U.C.L.A. After retirement in 2011, he was an Adjunct Professor at Adam's State 2013-14 and at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe 2017. He is on the BoD of KRZA and Co-Chair of the BoD of Conejos Clean Water as well as on the Advisory Council of the Southwest Borderlands Project. He owns and lives at the García Ranch Headquarters, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. He has two daughters, Lana Kiana and Tania Paloma García, who are graduate students at the CU-Denver and the University of New Mexico, respectively, where they both also teach.

Reyes Garcia
Conejos County

Anna Lee

 Anna Lee Vargas
Conejos County

Lawrence Pacheco is a lifelong resident of Costilla County and a Graduate of Sierra Grande High School. As a 1982 Graduate of Adams State College, Lawrence was hired by the Blanca/Ft. Garland Community Center where he retired in 2011. In 2002 a certification in massage therapy was achieved at the Creatone Healing Arts Center. After a successful campaign, Lawrence was elected as Costilla County Commissioner which started in 2013. A successful re-election in November 2016 will keep Lawrence in office till the end of 2020 when he will be term limited. Some of the most important accomplishments that Lawrence and his wife Tamara hold dear to their hearts was the ability to raise their three daughters Kim, Ashley, and Elizabeth within one mile of where he was raised by Ruben and Anna Maria Pacheco along with 8 other siblings. The Trinchera Ranch has been his back yard since he was a child. Grandson Ramon and Grand daughter Ahlea are among the things he cherishes the most.

Lawrence Pacheco
Costilla County

Graduated Denver Institute of Tech 1976 in Architectual Drafting and graduated Adams State College 1987 in Business. Married 42 years to Gary D. and was blessed with two children Larissa and Lucas, 5 grandchildren. She is the Fort-Chairman of the Fort Garlands Friends, is on the Fort Garland Revitalization Committee and is Chairman of the Sacred Heart Society. She is thirteen generation in Costilla, New Mexico/Colorado and her hobby is working on genealogy.

Debbie Pettigrew
Costilla County

Graduated Denver Institute of Tech 1976 in Architectual Drafting and graduated Adams State College 1987 in Business. Married 42 years to Gary D. and was blessed with two children Larissa and Lucas, 5 grandchildren. She is the Fort-Chairman of the Fort Garlands Friends, is on the Fort Garland Revitalization Committee and is Chairman of the Sacred Heart Society. She is thirteen generation in Costilla, New Mexico/Colorado and her hobby is working on genealogy.

Herman Martinez
Alamosa County


Julie Chacon

Julie Chacon

Julie Chacon

Lucie Olivas

Alina Marquez

Alina Marquez

Alliance Of National Heritage Areas

The Alliance of National Heritage Areas works collectively to protect and promote the people and places that tell America’s stories.
We are a membership organization of congressionally designated National Heritage Areas and partner-affiliated organizations promoting the professionalism and benefits of the program through education and advocacy. Together, we facilitate and celebrate partnerships that improve our effectiveness and impact.
Our goals:

  • Serve as one voice on interests related to all NHAs
  • Educate key constituencies about success and image of the NHA program
  • Facilitate strategic links among NHAs and partners
  • Enhance the organizational capacity of its members
  • Provide a network for sharing best practices regarding a variety of disciplines

Of the 55 National Heritage Areas, Colorado hosts three of them: Cache la Poudre River, South Park, and Sangre de Cristo. They each possess natural beauty, adventure, and history. Discover and experience Colorado’s culture, history, and recreational activities at all our National Heritage Areas through the Colorado Heritage Journey.

10 Year Report

Management Plan and Reports