Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
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Dear Fellow Coloradan,
In Colorado, it doesn't have to be Hispanic Heritage Month to notice the positive contributions that Colorado's Hispanic community has made to our great state. This month of recognition provides us with a chance to reflect on how the contributions of Latinos in Colorado have benefited our overall quality of life and how we can collectively celebrate the Hispanic community as a vibrant part of our Colorado family throughout the year.
Sangre de Cristo National Historic ParkMany of the sites proposed for inclusion in the Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park are of special significance because they are connected to Colorado’s Hispanic roots:
Colorado's parks, forests, wilderness areas and rivers are just some of the reasons many of us have chosen to live here. Alongside our outdoors, Colorado Latinos - who are business owners, teachers, parents and policy makers - also define the very best of Colorado. From their entrepreneurial spirit to their cultural heritage, Colorado's Hispanic community has had a profound effect on our great state since even before it was a state.
In the time before our state's founding, folks from places far and wide came to what is now Colorado in order to find new opportunity and enjoy the natural beauty and resources that shaped what our state is today. Among the earliest to settle alongside the Native Americans that call Colorado home were Hispano settlers. The foundations they laid gave way to permanent settlements like Colorado's oldest town of San Luis, an agricultural base that still feeds our state, and a trading corridor called the Santa Fe trail that spawned further settlement in the lower Arkansas Valley and beyond. This story is part of our collective Colorado history.
As Coloradans, we take stewardship of our public lands and natural resources seriously. And preserving and protecting our outdoors is closely linked with our work to sustain our shared history, including our state's Hispanic heritage. That is one of the reasons I am pursuing legislation to establish the Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park, building on the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area established in 2009.
Preserving our history and telling this story through our natural and historic spaces is important to protecting our Colorado way of life and will help us celebrate our history year-round.
Another year-round example of the connection between sustaining these two great heritages is the work of a Colorado organization, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), which connects urban youth with the outdoors through science education and leadership development programs. Recently, ELK teamed up with the Hispanic Access Foundation to bring 68 ELK youth and parents for a weekend of navigating Browns Canyon in the Arkansas River basin. That trip was a "first" for many of the attendees: their first time rafting, their first camping trip, their first time exploring the Arkansas River. ELK's efforts to engage Latino youth is a testament to the work countless groups are doing to make sure all Coloradans can enjoy our public lands and build on our shared heritage. Now, during Hispanic Heritage Month, we can celebrate the journey of these youth who have a newfound appreciation for our natural spaces that they will carry with them for a lifetime.
It is my hope that Coloradans of all stripes will come together to celebrate Colorado's Hispanic heritage as a part of our collective admiration of what it means to be a Coloradan. Please join with me in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by telling me on Facebook how you plan to mark the occasion.
ELK Kids Visit Washington, D.C. to Talk About Browns Canyon
This week, a group of the ELK kids came to Washington, D.C. to support my efforts to protect Browns Canyon – an amazing area between Salida and Buena Vista – as a national monument. In March, I began a process to develop legislation that will preserve the area’s world-class rafting and over 20,000 acres of wilderness-quality backcountry featuring bighorn sheep, deep silent canyons, and red rock formations. The kids shared photos and stories of their trip, and left me feeling even more energized to permanently protect this area for this next generation of stewards.