COLORADO SPRINGS — National Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off on September 15 and News5 is highlighting the contributions made to Southern Colorado by Mexican and Latin Americans.
Colorado Springs has a rich history. Today, we focus on several Hispanic American families who paved the way for Southern Colorado to be what it is today.
During the 1930s -1950s, the historic Conejos neighborhood--which was located between Colorado Avenue and Mill street--was made up of a few dozen tight-knit families who described themselves as "Una Familia Grande"(Spanish for "one big family"). The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum says the community was filled with people who worked at area mines, mills, and on the railroads.
One important community figure you should know about is Juan Ontiveros. He came to the U.S. from Mexico and met his lovely wife who grew up in the San Louis Valley. They decided to settle in Colorado Springs where they raised their four daughters. Ontiveros worked at the Denver and Rio Grande Railway Station, which was a couple of blocks away from the Conejos neighborhood.
"You can't know Colorado Springs' story unless you understand the contributions of Hispanic residents in Colorado Springs," Leah Davis Witherow, a Curator of History, explained. "In this gallery and other galleries throughout the museum you can learn the story of individuals and folks that contributed to make Colorado Springs what it is today."
The Pioneers Museum exhibit includes photos of families at church and family gatherings as well as other valuable belongings. There is even a reconstructed version of the Rio Grande Grocery and Market on display which served as an anchor and meeting place for the Conejos community.