Saturday, July 13

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Soul Players of the Valley:“Semillas of Change” 

By Anna Lee Vargas.

The Soul Players of the Valley (SPV) is a coalition of local Latino community leaders from four towns: Antonito, Capulin, San Luis, and South Alamosa. The Soul Players of the Valley came into existence because our communities made the choice to unite as one force for change. Having witnessed revitalization efforts fail in the past, we were determined to take a different approach. 

Grounded in our traditional communal ways of life inherited from our Hispano ancestors, we lead our communities in identifying ways to address our needs and building on our strengths to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future. 

As some of Colorado’s longest standing communities, we are well-equipped to develop and implement our plans to improve the lives of our people. We lead with dedication to our families and communities as we find inspiration from our ancestors to grow our collective power and make our shared vision for the future a reality. Latino Community Foundation of Colorado has provided us with additional capacity building and leadership development, grounded in our values and beliefs. The result of five years of work for us, the Soul Players of the Valley, has been a major shift in power dynamics and the creation of a community-driven plan working toward fostering healthy communities (health equity), building power, providing opportunities, and creating change. 

Walking through any one of our four communities, there are common threads that connect us through history and culture, and yet we have our own unique stories to tell. Our expansive landscapes are steeped in agricultural traditions and our main streets are surrounded by historical buildings.  Many of our homes are made out of adobe brick that have stood for well over a hundred years. Businesses that remain have been passed down through generations.  Even with these businesses, our lack of economy of scale and inequities were identified early on in our journey. 

One issue brought up in every one of our respective communities was inequities in health: physical and mental health. One of our main solutions to address these health inequities was to build or revitalize community centers to prioritize youth enrichment and development, expand health services, especially for mental health and substance use, improve economic conditions, and preserve and celebrate our culture. 

Our history attests to the fact that the Valley has always been a place of diversity, strength, and resilience. Our people’s Indigenous, Spanish, and Mexican roots have played a major role in influencing our food, farming practices, religion, art, and overall culture. We are proud that the Valley is home to Colorado’s oldest communities, oldest churches, only communal pasture, and first water right. Beginning with the land grants, our continued triumphs, and the spirit of la gente del Valle, our families have continued to thrive. It is our intention to preserve the beauty of our ancestral way of life, create new opportunities, and continue to build upon the strength of our people.

“Para la comunidad y nuestra gente.  Con la fuerza de nuestros ancestros y el amor de nuestros hijos, perseveraremos.” (translated: For our community and our people. With the strength from our ancestors and the love of our children, we will persevere.).

Soul Players of the Valley community leaders:

SPV Capulin: Anna Lee Vargas, Karen Hinojos, Armando Valdez.

SPV Antonito: Aaron Abeyta, Jennifer Sandoval

SPV San Luis: Ronda Lobato, Feliciana Lobato, Dana Maestas

SPV Alamosa: Jamie Dominguez, Crystalray Dominguez, Lisa Lucero, Esteban Salazar

Article first published under the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council: www.slvec.org

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