THE LAND TELLS WHO WE ARE: Conquest, Identity and Place in the San Luis Valley

Eléctrica in the Desert

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There are some American places where  history overlaps and  becomes so condensed,  so close and nearly visible,  that each layer is almost like its own separate lens

Lorraine Gomez grew up in such a place

Colorado’s San Luis Valley is  the world’s highest alpine basin, and one of its oldest, created by the great river that formed it thousands of years ago in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Valley follows the Rio Grande south to New Mexico, where the river tumbles over the border  and the two join the Camino Real in its long journey to Mexico City.

DSCF0351 Lorraine Gomez / Claire O’Brien 2013

Gomez’s connection to the  120-by-75 mile valley stretches  back to the Spanish farmers who settled the land before the Mexican Revolution. The communities they established have retained a strong and continuous Hispanic identity for generations (the term “Hispanic” refers specifically to Spanish-Americans in this region.)

Gomez is so deeply rooted in this valley that it defines the heart of her own  identity as well,  remaining her central reference point, regardless of whether or not she happens to be living there.


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