Conejos River History
As part of the Rio Grande River drainage, the area now known as
Conejos River has been home to a variety of peoples over the past
several thousand years. The great San Luis Valley was home to a
variety of civilizations that struggled with and against each other
to find a place of good food, potential shelter, and reasonable
Various populations found themselves either coming into the area
by choice or being pushed them by population growth in other
areas. Shortly before the Europeans came on the scene during
1600's, growing populations along the lower Rio Grande and in
the southern plains pushed the people who were closer to the
into the high San Luis Valley. The Apaches and Utes were quite
willing then to displace any previous residents and take command
for themselves. Their struggles with each other were as much
for pure rivalry as for survival.
The first Europeans, Spanish explorers and soldiers,
came to the Conejos River area only for excitement and for gold
and silver. Mines in the
area date from the middle of the 16th century.
The lower valley was actually settled beginning in 1854 with
the arrival of major LaFayette Head and Selendonio Valdez.
successful colony was at Servilleta, five miles east of the
present town of Conejos.
Conejos became a town of considerable importance with a courthouse,
a general store, the governor's palace and a flour mill.
The Roman Catholic Church built Our Lady of Guadalupe Church,
in 1866. It is known to be the oldest church in the state.
Because the first settlers were Spanish, and the area is
part of the Rio Grande Basin, the community is a part
of the Rio
Grande culture. Spanish is commonly spoken in homes and
English is the general community language. Sixty-one
percent of the population is Spanish origin. A very small percentage
In Conejos County there is little note of ethnic struggles
except in the northern end. There, more recent arrivals,
have created some ethnic awareness. When considering
their heritage, Hispanic persons in the county typically
back to Spain rather than note the bypass through Mexico.
Most of the
early residents could be noted as having lived in Mexico
only because Texas, at that time, was a part of Mexico.
Antonito and Conejos are two of the oldest towns
in the United States. At People's Drug Store in
up to the hardwood counter and drink a milkshake
cream and milk in an eight-beater milkshake maker.
Have a little malt
tossed in from the malt dispenser, and you have
a little taste of the good life.
The communities have a bit of Old Spanish charm
and graciousness in them. The people are warm
to visitors, preferring
to include strangers into their discussions and
debates rather than
shut them out. Visitor services are good and
community agencies go out of their way to be helpful the
traveling people, whether
they be laborers, business travelers, or tourists.