The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

The Hispanic Experience in Colorado

Last week I helped out at an all-day workshop in Denver for 3rd and 4th grade teachers called “The Hispanic Experience in Colorado.” The grant-funded workshop was the result of a collaboration among History Colorado, the Center for Colorado and the West at Auraria Library, and Teaching with Primary Sources – Colorado (Library of Congress). The teachers who attended are required to teach Colorado history, and they seemed truly grateful to discover ways to enrich their lessons with Hispanic materials.

As presenters, we had a few goals. First, we wanted to introduce teachers to the new legislature-approved Colorado State Social Studies Standards that took effect in December, 2010. Second, we wanted to show participants some of the rich resources available at the Library of Congress as well as those that the Center for Colorado and the West has been collecting to fill significant gaps in the Western history collections of the Denver Public Library. Third, we wanted to help participants learn ways to incorporate primary sources into their teaching.

I’m excited not only about the wonderful Hispanic resources that we introduced to the teachers, but also about the next six weeks of online follow-up training. Teachers will be developing lessons based on their “annotated resource sets,” and they will be sharing them with the “TPS Connect” group online.

I was thrilled that our workshop was covered by Yesenia Robles, a reporter from the Denver Post. You can imagine, then, how shocked I was at the 127 often rambling and astonishingly vitriolic comments that followed the Denver Post article. You’d have thought our workshop was all about turning the United States government over to illegal immigrants! Some of the comments just sickened me. So much for reasoned public discourse. Sigh.

At any rate, I did learn some interesting facts from our workshop speakers about the history of Hispanics in Colorado, so I think I’ll pass them along here:

  • Historians today prefer the term “borderlands history.”
  • Hispano history in Colorado goes from south to north rather than from east to west as is normally the focus of “westering.”
  • San Luis, founded in 1851, is the oldest non-Native American community in Colorado.
  • The R & R Grocery in San Luis was founded in 1857. It still exists.
  • Denver proper was 38% Latino in the 2010 census. Denver metro was 13% Latino.
  • “I didn’t cross the border; the border crossed me.”
  • In 1936, in the middle of the Great Depression, the governor of Colorado closed the southern state border to anyone coming north who spoke Spanish. The fear was that the Spanish speakers would take what few jobs were available. (Hmm. Where have we heard this argument?)
  • Hispano traders dominated the trade along the Santa Fe Trail.
  • A man named Rivera made the first mining expedition into Colorado in 1765.
  • The first Colorado State Constitution was written in three languages – English, Spanish, and German!

Obviously, I have much more to learn. To that end, tomorrow I plan to pick up a book at the public library that one speaker recommended: No Separate Refuge, by Sarah Deutsch.

And I will keep telling myself, “You cannot argue with a closed mind.” And I’ll take a deep breath.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection

Young Spanish-American Potato Picker, Rio Grande County, Colorado, 1939

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