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Welcome to Pagosa Springs Pagosa Hot Springs Road from Pagosa Springs to Chama Pagosa Springs Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs Near Fort Garland Fort Garland The San Luis Valley San Luis's Religious Heritage San Luis View of the Sand Dunes at Sunset View of Sand Dunes Deer in the park Southern Colorado sunset Fort Garland The Old Fort View of San Luis On the road from Pagosa Springs to Chama On the road from Pagosa Springs to Chama Top of the pass on Hwy 64 Click to see more about the route from Chama south through the Espanola Valley Old Costilla Plaza Questa area Questa area Questa area

The San Luis Valley

A scene near Fort Garland

A fertile valley stretching a hundred miles
bordered by two mountain ranges.

San Luis

San Luis, Colorado's oldest town, was settled by La Gente de la Tierra (the people of the land) who came from Taos and Mora.

The first settlement was made in 1851 on the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant. It included La Plaza de San Luis de Culebra, built close to the model of settlement proscribed by the Spanish Empire in 1573.

Use rights for communal grazing were inviolable under Spanish and Mexican law.  Homes were built of Adobe strips and were measured in Varas (about 33 inches).   Single men were given 50 to 100 Varas for a home and married men were given 100 to 200 Varas.

The first store in San Luis was established in 1857 by Dario Gallegos.

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  • The Stations of the Cross - walk the path to the shrine at the top of the hill and look down on views of the San Luis Valley.

    More Places to Hike

  • San Luis History Museum where you can learn the culture and history of this region.  See::
    • "Bultos" made or preserved by the brotherhood which served as mediators between man and God.
    • "Muerte", the Angel of Death, made as a reminder of mortality.   It was pulled in carts filled with stones by hooded Hermanos doing penance.

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Sangre de Cristo Land Grant

Started under Spanish rule, the system of land grants was continued by the Mexican government after they gained independence from Spain in 1821. The San Luis Valley was part of Mexico’s northern frontier along with the Taos and Cimarron areas. Some “strangers” such as French Canadians were allowed to settle in these areas. One of these French Canadians was Charles Beaubien who came in 1824, became a citizen , and married a woman from Taos.

Another naturalized citizen was Stephen Louis Lee originally from Missouri. He and Beaubien’s son, Narcisco, petitioned Governor Manuel Armijo for the 1 million acre Sangre de Cristo Land Grant in the San Luis Valley. In 1844 they received the land but when they were both killed 3 years later during the Taos Rebellion, the grant went to Charles Beaubien

In 1848, after the Mexican War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo was signed guaranteeing the new American citizens the right to the grants which they had previously been given. Beaubien’s title was confirmed by the US Congress in 1860. However, Beaubien died 4 years later and the land was sold to Col. William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado

Gilpin’s grant was sold to Eastern investors in 1869 and was then divided into two parts, the Trinchero estate in the north and the Costilla estate in the south. At this time there were 2000 hispanics living on the land.

The eastern developers attempted to sell the Costilla portion to Dutch immigrants who would not agree to buy the land unless the “La Gente” already living there were removed. The inhabitants produced legal documents to their title from Carlos Beabien, but the documents were ignored.

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San Luis Religious Heritage

Many men who settled in San Luis were members of an ancient order of lay brothers called La Coffradia or La Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno. This brotherhood grew in response to the scarcity of priests in the frontier area. They handled disputes, conducted wakes, and headed the commemoration during holy week of the Passion of Christ

Also known as Los Hermanos, the brotherhood was known by their private houses of worship called moradas meaning “holy places”. Los Hermanos has a long somewhat hidden history going back perhaps as early as the late 1500s.

The same year that San Luis was founded, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy arrived in Santa Fe with fellow French priests. He had little respect for Los Hermanos which forced Los Hermanos underground. They remained in seclusion until recognized in 1947 by the Archbishop.

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