Lost Colorado city offers lessons about cultural conflicts

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A town in southern Colorado, which was founded by Hispanics 150 years ago and today no longer exists, offers some timeless lessons about cultural and technological conflicts, according to historian Virginia Sanchez.

In October 1862, eight families from northern New Mexico crossed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and founded the city of Cuchara in the southern part of Colorado, where they lived by farming and raising sheep.

But the arrival of the railroad a decade later and the opening of mines and metallurgical factories forced the settlers to switch from Spanish to English and separated their families, with the men working a long way from home. The city eventually disintegrated.

The history of Cuchara and the rapid cultural transformation of the Hispanic families living there would have been lost forever but for an 1884 document on the use of irrigation canals that Estela Fernandez, Sanchez's mother-in-law and a descendant of the inhabitants of Cuchara, gave her years ago.

An analysis of this document and of land registries, newspapers, maps and censuses, as well as interviews with descendants of the original eight pioneer families, allowed Sanchez to reconstruct "a complex history of cultural exchanges" among Indian tribes, Hispanics, whites and immigrants, particularly Chinese.....

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