It’s important to recognize our geographic roots
My Grandma Dorothy was fiercely loyal to South Pueblo, as she was born on Bohmen Avenue, raised on Eilers Avenue, lived as a newlywed and first-time mom on Mesa Avenue, and spent the final chapter of her life on Acero Avenue.
Some of my best memories involve riding in her electric blue Monte Carlo down Northern Avenue for a trip to SoLo for snacks.
Place-based memories and geographic allegiance are common in Pueblo. Our lives and our histories are defined by places and boundaries — both natural and human-made.
The location of the original El Pueblo trading post, established in 1842, was selected precisely because of its proximity to waterways, pathways, and the U.S./Mexico border. The placement of El Pueblo also influenced its character as a quintessential border outpost: rowdy, entrepreneurial and diverse.
Our roots within these borderlands are part of our community ancestry and encompass many aspects of our history including the cyclical migration of indigenous tribes, the wintering of the Mormon battalion, the open-range of Charles Goodnight, the many different ethnicities working at the steel mill, and even our favorite historic high school football rivalry.
There are also internalized borders, as written famously by philosopher Gloria Anzaldúa. Imagine the Croatian millworker who must vacillate between his ancestral old country ways and the Americanization of CF&I, who is both of Croatia and of America, who may send money home while also saving money to buy an American home.
The rich motif of the Borderlands in Pueblo and all of Southern Colorado begs for a worthy exploration. Thus, El Pueblo History Museum/History Colorado is partnering with the Center of the American West (CU-Boulder) and Colorado State University-Pueblo to host a symposium on the Borderlands of Southern Colorado.
The museum symposium, on April 21, features Colorado State Historian Patty Limerick alongside scholars from around the country — from Yale to the University of California. These scholars will examine and discuss Borderlands in a variety of contexts: geographical, cultural, political, geological, personal, historical, and metaphorical. The symposium is part of the interpretative planning process behind new exhibits at El Pueblo History Museum and its sister museums: Trinidad History Museum and Fort Garland Museum.
The first of these exhibits will open in February 2018, at El Pueblo, in commemoration of the 170th anniversary of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This 1848 treaty marks a life-changing moment in southern Colorado history when the border between Mexico and the US moved — more or less — to its current location. And, this is the reference made by the many southern Colorado families who have lived here for centuries and explain: “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.” The other exhibits in Trinidad and Fort Garland will open in spring 2019.
We hope that the larger community of Southern Colorado will join us for this discussion. The exploration of the Borderlands of Southern Colorado is a reminder that our geography is part of our identity, and that where we live or where we are from is part of who we are. An understanding of our shared history and geography is foundational to a strong, resilient and vibrant southern Colorado.
Anyone interested in attending the Borderlands Symposium, April 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at El Pueblo History Museum, is encouraged to RSVP by calling 719-583-0453 or emailing email@example.com.
The museum is also hosting a Borderlands dinner on the evening of Friday, April 21, at 6 p.m., featuring Colorado scholars. Tickets are $35/each or $25/members.
Dawn DiPrince is the Director of Community Museums of History Colorado, which includes El Pueblo History Museum, Trinidad History Museum, and Fort Garland Museum, as well as other museums across Colorado.