Western Trips

Western Trips

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Visit to Historic San Luis Colorado

San Luis Colorado with the motto: "The Oldest Town in Colorado" is a beautiful and historic place to visit. Nestled in scenic south central Colorado, a short distance north of the border with New Mexico, San Luis was a part of the New Mexico Territory until 1861 when the Colorado Territory was established. This was at the same time that Congress granted Kansas statehood.

san luis colorado
Mural in San Luis Colorado
The Settlement of San Luis

As mentioned above, the settlement of San Luis was at one time within the New Mexico Territory when the U.S. took control in the late 1840's. Prior to that the settlement was within Spanish and later Mexican Nuevo Mexico. The Spanish explored into present day Colorado as early as 1540. The Mexican government only ruled the territory for a few decades in the 1800's before the Mexican American War. As a direct result of that war Mexico ceded the region.

San Luis today is primarily a Hispanic settlement that was originally populated in 1851. This would have been just a few years after the Mexican American War and still a part of the New Mexico Territory. Historically, this is also an area of the expedition of Zebulon Pike

Land grants attracted many people to today's southern Colorado although the settlers at first had to withstand raids from Ute Native Americans of which this land was a part of their ancestral grounds. Many tribes did inhabit Colorado at various times includung the Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho.

A good book regarding Colorado Territory history is The Rise of the Centennial State: Colorado Territory by author Eugene H. Berwanger.

shrine of the stations of the cross
The Chapel of All Saints on top of the mesa
Visit San Luis Colorado and the Colorado-New Mexico Border Region

A visit to San Luis is a perfect companion trip to several other northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado tourist destinations. San Luis is about 63 miles north of Taos New Mexico and about 45 miles south of the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Shrine of the Stations of the Cross 

In addition to being the oldest town in Colorado San Luis has another thing to offer. Take a stroll up a part paved part dirt path up a hillside on the edge of San Luis Colorado and you'll be experiencing the truly unique Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. Here you will find a spot that reflects the culture of the area.

Walking on this path some 8,000 feet above sea level could be one of the most unique walks you'll take.  The route is about three quarters of a mile long. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross is located on a mesa and along your walk you'll pass by a several bronze statues.These statues depict the last hours of the life of Christ. Each station along your journey up the mesa will highlight a different scene. On top of the mesa is the Spanish-Moorish styled Chapel of All Saints. The chapel towers over the valley.

You will pass fifteen different stations along the way with the last one depicting Christ's resurrection. Models of the sculptures are also in a collection at the Vatican in Rome Italy.

san luis colorado shrine
A view at the beginning of the walkway
The Sculptor

The sculptor of these unique bronze statues was Huberto Maestas. Works of Maestas are located throughout the world. His work is in both public and private collections.

His sculptures at the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross were made at two-thirds life size. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection statues are life size.

Many Historic and Fun Sites Near San Luis Colorado

As mentioned above, a visit to unique and scenic San Luis Colorado can be a good addition to the many other scenic and historic sites in the area. These include the historic site of Fort Garland Colorado, about 16 miles north of San Luis.

The art community of Arroyo Seco New Mexico is about a 64 mile drive south of San Luis and just a few miles south of it is beautiful Taos New Mexico.

Below are links to Western Trips photo articles covering a few more interesting sites near San Luis Colorado...

The Art and History of Arroyo Seco New Mexico

Historic Frontier Fort Garland Colorado

things to do in san luis colorado
Entrance way to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross
An interesting side note, and a topic that has been reported on in length, the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado is a UFO hot spot. At least it is to some observers. Many of the locals tell of UFO stories. Supposedly there have been documented UFO sightings in the valley as far back as the year 1600.  Today the San Luis Valley is considered a national UFO hot spot.

 If you're in the area and into UFO's make sure to check out the UFO Watchtower in Hooper Colorado. This is a rectangular shaped tower standing ten feet above ground that can accommodate sixty people at a time. There have also been about the same number of sightings, cigar shaped strange objects with lights, since the tower's opening. Hooper Colorado is located about 59 miles northwest of San Luis Colorado and about 20 miles north of Alamosa Colorado.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 Western Trips)

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