The communities of Costilla and Amalia celebrated 175 years of pride, traditions, culture, family, and love from August 4 to August 6 for the milestone community reunion. The theme was, ”Mi Tierra, Mi Gente” (my land, my people), a theme on display in plain sight with over 2,000 people in attendance over the 3-day weekend, coming from near and far to celebrate the place where their stories began.
Starting Friday, attendees arrived in town to register for the fun-filled weekend, where they connected at the Plaza de Arriba and looked at historic photos of Costilla and Amalia on display in a photo exhibit which was curated by Pauline and Lina Rivera. Numerous photos were contributed on the Families of Costilla and Amalia Facebook site. Attendees also had the opportunity to eat at the historic Plaza de Arriba restaurant and from a big selection of food vendors.
Saturday was a full day, packed with a parade, northern New Mexico music and food, and games. Families proudly donned banners displaying their family surnames as they marched down the main road in Costilla as parade-goers collected candy thrown from those in the parade. A fan favorite was the boat-car hybrid driven by Ronnie Trujillo. His grandson Anthony Roman and nephew Kingston Luna sat proudly in the rear seats, with paddles as they sailed through the parade.
Grand Marshals for the parade included the Most Reverend Bishop Ricardo Ramirez and hometown Bataan Death March survivor Valdemar DeHerrera in the first car, followed by Ruth Vigil, Casilda Lovato and Natividad DeHerrera, representing the senior community. A ceremony followed which included speakers, awards, and testimonies. It was emceed by former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Jiron.
A notable part of the celebration was the musical presentation presented to the community by the Torres Family entitled “Mi Tierra, Mi Gente,” a nod to this year’s theme. Several vendors were set up in the plaza, offering foods authentic to the area, including capulin jelly, biscochitos, frito pies, and pastellitos, to name a few.
During the day, the music of San Acacio-born and raised Gino Rael & the Mighty Nice Band played old school medleys. The community came back together for an evening of human connection, talking, singing, and dancing to the Marcha and belting out the words to the iconic Volver canción in unison with New Mexico’s own Roberto Griego Band.
On Sunday, the community came together for a Mass served by the Most Reverend Bishop Ricardo Ramirez and final blessing at Sacred Heart Catholic Church to bid goodbye to one another.
The event generated statewide recognition, with Lt. Governor Howie Morales sharing photos and a post on social media which read, “Congratulations to everyone who celebrated at the wonderful 2023 Costilla-Amalia Reunion held in far northern New Mexico this weekend, marking the 175th anniversary of the Costilla and Amalia Settlement and neighboring communities dating back to 1848. It is such an important part of our state’s history. The 2023 event brought together families, the extended community, and descendants to celebrate the rich historical traditions of this lovely mountainous region, share memories, and enjoy food, music and friendship. You make New Mexico wonderful!”
The authentic connections deepened through this reunion were reminiscent of the bonds that connected this community decades prior, since the ancestors of the attendees connected as a means of survival. Times have changed over the years, and access to food and water has changed the need to maintain relationships as a means of survival. The connections, however, in maintaining culture, language, and traditions remain a priority for the community.
Those involved in the planning of this milestone event include the media sponsor LaVozColorado, owned by Henry and Pauline Rivera. The reunion planning committee was chaired by Pauline Rivera and included members Sandie Wesolowski, John Valdez, Richard D. Rivera, Angela Salazar, Natalie Herrera, Dr. Richard Lovato, Donny Ruybal, Henry Rivera, Julie Santistevan Segura, Claudette Padilla Trudell, Alma Duran, Christina Mares Cole and Al Cordova. Parade committee members included Julie Ann Pacheco, Billy Jane Ortiz, Sherrie Bice, and Brian Salazar. Countless local and out-of-town volunteers also contributed to the event.
Notable event sponsors included Albertson’s Market, Walmart, Duran’s Gas & Grocery, Farmer’s Insurance, Dennis Santistevan, Plaza de Arriba owners Dennis and Miriam Santistevan, RCCLA, and Kit Carson Electric.