Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation recognizing one of Colorado's most historically significant regions--the San Luis Valley.
It is no exaggeration to say that the unique history and culture of the region we commonly call `the Valley' is one of the richest in our state, region, and nation, particularly as an example of early Hispano and Latino settlement. As an avid student of history--like so many of my colleagues--I find that the more I learn and experience the stories, people, and places of the Valley, the more I want to learn.
First explored by Spanish Colonial expeditions in the 17th century, Hispano families from Northern New Mexico made many attempts at permanent settlement in this region, but weren't successful until the late 1840s, after the territory became part of Mexico. With the oldest town, San Luis, and the oldest water right, the People's Ditch, in Colorado, the San Luis Valley hosts some of the most intact Mexican territorial settlements in the Southwest. Many descendants of those original settlers continue to live in the region today.
But despite this incredibly rich history, millions of people visit Colorado every year who are not familiar with the San Luis Valley. The legislation I am introducing today would create the Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park, named for the stunning mountain range that forms the eastern border of the valley. The Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park would link together a series of historically significant sites throughout the valley--protecting and preserving them for future generations to experience and learn from.
Creating this park will help to tell the story of Colorado's earliest settlers.
Telling these stories and protecting these sites is important because of their intrinsic value to our history, culture and future generations. But they are also important to the economy as our state and country are emerging from the worst economy in a generation. The Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park could serve as an anchor for a regional tourism economy that can bring jobs to the entire San Luis Valley and Southern Colorado while recognizing and celebrating the Valley's rich and important history.
Over the last several years, I have held a series of town hall meetings in San Luis, La Jara and Alamosa to learn more about the recently created Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and to hear the views of the local communities. I heard a great deal of support for the National Historic Park concept, and today marks an important step forward in the process of creating this meaningful, if overdue, park.
I look forward to working with stakeholders, local communities and my colleagues to move this legislation forward.
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