By Staff Writers
The founders of Questa’s History Trail were amazed to learn just how much our remote village is a microcosm of northern New Mexico’s past. Discussions, interviews and research by the project team in 2016 soon unveiled a unique story, as anyone who has read the eight interpretive signs or studied the questatrail.org website can attest. If you’ve not yet been introduced to the trail, you can be amazed by this local history yourself on Saturday, June 5, when local historian Flavio Cisneros leads a guided walk along the half-mile route, in celebration of its grand opening.
Do you know what a hydrothermal scar is? Or that the word almagre is Arabic, from the time North Africa’s culture extended into Spain, prior to explorations across the ocean? Are you familiar with the much-used route along our foothills that Plains Natives rode on the way to Taos Pueblo, making the location of our village a less than optimal site for a conflict-free future? Or what the impact of the 1918 pandemic was in Questa?
A diverse and skilled team of area residents began The Questa History Trail project in the autumn of 2016 under the auspices of Questa Creative Council. The mine had closed. Multiple agencies were seeking ways to support the restoration of our economic health, our confidence, and our cultural identity. Not all suggestions were a good fit, and some just took a while to be implemented.
A roundtable discussion of locals, led by the Frontier Communities team in 2015, was truly dynamic and a catalyst for the History Trail. This program, part of Mainstreet USA, and designed for smaller villages such as ours, originated the popular call for a walking trail to highlight Questa’s culture and history.
The restoration of St. Anthony’s Church had generated interest in Questa locally and nationally, and the new trail team was determined to continue this enthusiasm.
It was fortunate that the long-awaited work on the parking lot at St. Anthony’s was begun during the pandemic shutdown, although that levelling and redesign displaced. Marcus Rael, trail supporter and deacon of St. Anthony’s Church, assures us this will get sorted out. “Plans for a new priest’s house are part of the archdiocese’s hopes for the parking lot space eventually. This will be situated to the side of the new acequia bridge,” he reports.
All public events of the Questa Creative Council, including the Questa History Trail’s opening, were cancelled or moved online in 2020. Mark Sideris, fellow founder of the History Trail project, constructed a new bridge over the acequia on his own during the first weeks of the pandemic when social distancing was at its peak, still hoping for that June 2021 opening. The bridge was to have completed walkability of the trail route. It will have a short detour around it until the parking lot work is ready. Walkers can still access all signage.
“There is so much that is special about Questa, and I’m sure we can have improvements for the church, and an exciting walking trail. We deserve both,” says Flavio Cisneros, one of the Trail project’s founders and your walk guide on June 5.
The trail has attracted many supporters, both locally and nationally. Alberta Bouyer, History Trail Co-founder reports, “We were awarded generous grants from the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area, who covered the cost of our initial trail signage and study, and the final durable interpretive signs that are now installed.”
There are only 55 National Heritage Areas in the country, and two of them are in our region—ours and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, just over the Colorado border. That’s how special our local culture and history are! The Questa Creative Council recognizes this and has made it its mission to strengthen our community through art, culture, history, and education through their many projects and events.
The Questa History Trail of the QCC also worked closely with the New Mexico Humanities Council to plan and host very popular events in 2018, including their Gathering Memory: Objects, Photos, and Story event at the VFW hosted by native son and former New Mexico State Historian, Estevan Rael-Galvez. The intention of the History Trail project’s founders has always been to be an asset that local youth and educators can utilize, and to develop collaborations around local opportunities to learn, share, and connect. “Our younger generation are interested to know the history of the community. Who else but us can share this?” says Flavio Cisneros.
“Collaboration is a big focus for our creative council’s efforts,” says Claire Coté, whose Questa Stories project interfaces with the History Trail, and also interfaces with Dr. Rael-Galvez and the Manitos project that works to reclaim the cultural heritage of our local villages and their diasporas. The Questa Creative Council’s newest project, Northern New Mexico Music; Past and Present is another piece of this valuable focus.
“Our project team has worked for over four years, and gained support, both in-kind and in the thousands of dollars, from not only generous residents, but from village, county, state and federal sources. All of these supporters have put so much trust in our community to build this valuable asset,” says Alberta.
This is truly a unique project with broad support. Our local field office of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and Chevron also lent valuable insights and information for the development of the History Trail’s interpretive signage and web pages. The Village of Questa has been a loyal supporter from the Trail’s inception. And this is only the beginning!
New Assistant Librarian, Laura Vallejos, a native of Questa, recently told the Questa del Rio News that after returning home following 15 years away, she was pleasantly surprised with how Questa had evolved. “There are so many positive changes and improvements going on [that] make living here more enjoyable.”
The Questa History Trail’s project team is proud to be part of that. They hope the entire community, visiting family, and travelers to the southwest alike, are all engaged and inspired by the unique local culture shared on this new community asset.
Join the celebration on National Trails Day and learn, honor, and be amazed by our past—and feel inspired to create our future. The guided walk will begin at 11 am, on Saturday, June 5. Meet at the intersection of NM Highways 522 and 38. Look for the welcome tent! Special guests will add valuable insights to the local memories that historian-guide, Flavio Cisneros, plans to share.
For more information, email QuestaCreativeCouncil@gmail.com Further resources; QuestaTrail.org, QuestaCreative.org, QuestaStories.org, and Manitos.net.