You’ve heard of San Luis, Colorado being Colorado’s oldest town, founded in 1851. In actuality, Garcia, Colorado is the oldest town in Colorado, but San Luis filed the paperwork before Garcia, making it the official oldest town.
This past February was the 175th anniversary of the Treaty de Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War. This very year, 175 years ago, the community of Costilla and other neighboring northern New Mexico communities were already officially settled by our ancestors. Throughout history the residents remained in their respective areas, but the territory and borderlines changed, first between Spain, then Mexico, then the United States.
Although, unofficially, (there is no official settlement documentation) there is proof that Costilla was settled in 1848 or earlier. Documentation of mail being delivered to the area residents is recorded history. Our calculations conclude that Costilla is older than San Luis, Colorado, at 175 years old.
Two years ago a committee was formed and led by Pauline Rivera, publisher of LaVozColorado in Denver, in an effort to celebrate this incredible day in history. An event which includes a community parade, ceremony with guest speakers, cultural foods, a musical depicting the people and generations of people who grew up in the area. How many times in your life do you get to celebrate 175 years of anything? While I did have a paternal grandmother who reached age 106, and two aunts that made it to 100, I don’t believe I’ll ever pass this way again, nor will you.
The weekend of August 4 to 6 will honor the hard work, determination, tenacity, perseverance, integrity, and ambition of our ancestors. Family names like Arellano, Martinez, Trujillo, Valdez, Padilla, Torres, Ortiz, Santistevan, Rivera, Maes, Lucero, Lovato, Cordova, Pacheco, Segura, Vigil, Sanchez, Quintana and many more are spoken with pride.
You’ve heard the phrase, “I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me,” a phrase that correctly and pridefully represents the people of Costilla, Amalia, and other northern New Mexico communities, as well as nearby Garcia and Jaroso, Colorado. The battle for land between Spain, then Mexico, and lastly the United States did not rock the determination and strength of a people who remained in their land. Just to confirm, our Spanish and Native American ancestors were here before the pilgrims.
In 2019, a similar committee organized a community reunion drawing over 2,000 people. As the late New Mexico Sen. Carlos Cisneros reported at the 2019 reunion, “I’ve never seen so many people in Costilla.” They came, they ate, they stayed, they enjoyed, ate some more, and posted their memories on social media or on the Families of Costilla & Amalia site, and still talk about it today.
We often hear people say they wish they had recorded their grandparents, their stories, their history. Some do, others didn’t. Here is your chance to come home again and revisit the home of your ancestors, and reminisce.
Born and raised in this inkling of a town and all that it stands for, is forever in my heart. Why? Because that is where familia worked so hard to educate, protect, and make a better life for you, because it is the place where you enjoyed the very best of all cultural foods known to northern New Mexico, because it is the place known as God’s country, because the dirt country roads, the uneven fence posts, the little green apples in September, the piñon picking every four years or sooner, the stacked enchiladas only your mother could make, the fresh tortillas off the comal, the taste of crunchy chicharonnes, the blaring radios (KOMA in Oklahoma) with 50s, 60s and even 70s music that connected you to the rest of society, is forever your hometown. It is the place where you were educated and thought everyone else was bilingual, the place where, a few Black families, an “Arabe” store owner, some white families spoke better Spanish than most, and created the diversity who made us who we are today. It is the place where Box Canyon, La Uta, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Blueberry Hill, Poleo, Ventero, Garcia, Jaroso, Amalia Elementary, Costilla High, and more are memories we can never shake.
Looking back: a 175-year-old community that created thousands of professionals, farmers, politicians, musicians, doctors, surgeons, dentists, CPAs, attorneys and everyday people with a heart of gold. We are not all perfect, but we’re pretty close.
For more information on this awesome event, please visit costillareunion.org