The Cora Connection: The life of indigenous Mexicans in Colorado’s mountains

Cora Tribe

Story and photos by Will Shoemaker

The similarities in topography alone are striking. Rugged, mountainous terrain, where eking out a living can be arduous, is nothing new for the Cora Indians of Mexico who have found a new home in the Gunnison Valley.

Natives of the Sierra Madre Mountains of the state of Nayarit in western Mexico, the Cora are people of the mountains through and through – independent, strong, thick-skinned and capable of overcoming most any adversity thrown their way.

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Heirloom Music Coming to Central Colorado

Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s musical career does not read like a fairy tale, it’s more a story of fits, starts, patience, persistence and lucky breaks.

Gilmore spoke to Colorado Central Magazine from his home in Spicewood, Texas, outside of Austin, in advance of his upcoming U.S. tour. He is getting ready to set out a with the band The Wronglers, on a tour that will take him to Philadelphia, New York City, Charleston, Cleveland, Chicago and beyond, but not before he first completes a tour of Colorado, a place he once called home.

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Customer Service in the 21st Century

By Mike Rosso

“Hello and welcome to MegaCorp. Para el Español presione por favor cinco. Please enter your ten-digit phone number, followed by the pound sign.”

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

“Thank you, the next available representative will be with you shortly.”

Five minutes of scratchy, cheery music at high volume.

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Peace Corpse? Checking the pulse of the Peace Corps as it turns 50

By Bill Hatcher

They call it “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” and those who know it best say it represents America at its finest. Celebrating its 50th year, the Peace Corps continues striving to promote nothing less than international friendship and world peace. However, no one reading this article need be reminded that the U.S. is now involved in multiple wars and is convalescing from the worst economic crisis in 80 years.

Given such contrast, it seems that two questions demand a closer look: How successful has the Peace Corps been in achieving its grand mission, and can we afford to continue funding international aid programs like the Peace Corps in hard times like these?

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Pesto from the Almost-Summer Garden

By Susan Tweit

Summer’s almost here, and our kitchen garden is loving the heat after a truly weird winter and spring, including more wind and less precipitation between October and May than any time in the century-plus that weather records have been kept in this valley.

May brought a detour back to the weather we might have had in March and April, including some precipitation, with a wet snow on May first, an all-day rain ten days later, and then a cold period that had me leaving the row covers on some beds in the kitchen garden all day, not just at night. The warm-weather plants, including the tomatoes, basil, and Japanese eggplants sulked.

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The Last Month

 By Martha Quillen

May is a pleasant enough month – the mother of spring, and welcome end of a long, dreary, wind-blighted Rocky Mountain shoulder season. Yet I associate it with death, and have ever since my brother-in-law died on May 1, 1974.

Ed and I had just moved to Kremmling to work for the newspaper there and hadn’t gotten a phone yet, when a police officer arrived at our door at 6 a.m. He told me there was an emergency and handed me a phone number.

I knew what had happened immediately, but I didn’t want to believe it. Ed’s little brother was doing all right; he was supposed to get out of the hospital at 8 a.m. that very morning. I woke Ed up and we went in to work, where Ed called his parents, who confirmed the terrible news.

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Images of words and pictures

By Hal Walter
If a picture can paint a thousands words, then I should keep this short. My columns are usually 800-1,000 words, and this one is accompanied by a few photos.

It may baffle and surprise some readers to learn that I often picture a written essay as an image. It forms in my head and then I attempt to project this image into words. Sometimes it’s easy to get those words out, and sometimes not so.

I started out in journalism because of an interest in photography. I joined my high school newspaper class and saved to buy a Minolta SRT 101 camera. My folks later bought me some darkroom equipment and we turned a small bathroom into a makeshift lab.

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Food: Local or Fast?

by Allen Best

Being a male of a certain age, I’m sometimes distressed to catch sight of an individual in surveillance cameras and mirrors that looks familiar but strange. It’s me, and I must pay closer attention to my diet.

I’m not alone. While people living in the West tend to be leaner those than in other parts of the country, our padding has been growing. The gymnasium helps, but everything starts with your diet. I need a bracelet to jolt me electronically when I grab a bag of chips on my last lap in the grocery store. That same bracelet should zap me for the mere glance at a fast-food joint. In metropolitan Denver, that would require tunnel vision: just one chain, McDonald’s, has 85 stores within a 15-mile radius of where I live.

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Down on the Ground with Capitalism again

By George Sibley

A couple months ago I broached the idea in this column that one of the problems with “capitalism” in America is the American bias that equates it with “private-sector capitalism.” Meaning, a system for investment during the production and distribution of goods and services controlled by individuals and organizations who have money and are looking for ways to use it to make more money.

What made me think of this again was a story from the New York Times business section back in April about a difficulty that big online virtual mall is encountering today – what might be called an enviable difficulty, I suppose, from a business perspective. Amazon is making a lot of money these days. How they are doing that, we will look at more closely in a minute, but the fact is, in a time of “weak economic recovery,” as we’re euphemistically putting it, Amazon’s first-quarter revenues this year were up 38 percent over the same period last year.

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green cat gallery crab dip

 by Steph Brady

I’ve been making this crab dip for 16 of the 19 years of Salida Art Walk. I used to offer other appetizers but once I started offering this particular dip the patrons wouldn’t hear of me serving anything else. I serve this on Friday night and often, shrimp ceveché on Saturday. Many of my patrons come in on Friday just to sample this crab dip. Some have been coming for all of the 16 years. It’s almost like a green cat staple and it’s not unusual to serve 50 to 120 people. This dip is easy to make and takes only minutes. Now, I’m a cook that never measures – it’s a little of this or that – so I’ve tried to convey what I do. I usually make about four times this recipe for Art Walk.

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Art and Healing

Regional Artists Display their Work at the Hospital in Salida

By Jennifer Dempsey
More than 50 regional artists are showcased in the hallways and waiting areas of the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) in Salida in a permanent collection and rotating exhibition.

The artwork is selected through a juried process by the hospital’s Art Advisory Committee which believes “art can help promote a healing environment,” said committee member Dan Downing. “We also recognized the reputation of our area as a nationally renowned art community and we wanted to build on that. To do this the committee decided to purchase art from local and regional artists to become part of a permanent collection.”

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William Jackson Palmer – 1836-1909

By Doug Schmidt

There are many differences between the culture of today and the culture that existed in the early days of the Colorado pioneers. One of the most glaring is that anyone attempting a new venture in the 21st century is given a list of reasons outlining why the project cannot be completed as proposed. The early railroad pioneers did not tolerate being told why not, but expected to be told how the project would be completed.

One such man who racked up accomplishment after undaunted accomplishment was General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and the driving force behind the establishment of Colorado Springs as a major American city.

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A Farmer Far Afield – Rosen vs Quillen

By John Mattingly
On May 5, 2011, I happened to be driving back from Denver, listening to “The Mike Rosen Show” on 850 KOA. I have an inclination (perhaps flawed) to periodically hear what the likes of Rosen and Limbaugh have to say about Goodman, Flanders, and in this case, Quillen.

I was surprised when Rosen announced that he and Ed Quillen had written columns in the Denver papers on the same day regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. My first thought was, “Hey, I know Ed. Ed’s going to be on the radio. Go Ed!”

Rosen, however, didn’t invite Ed to call in. Instead, Rosen compared his column with Ed’s, amplifying the “incredible” difference between them. I recall Rosen doing this several times in the past with other columnists who disagreed with him, never entertaining a rebuttal. But, as Rosen would say, “It’s my show, and I can do what I want.”

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Water Update

by John Orr

La Niña, snowpack and runoff

The picture can change quickly when you’re watching the Colorado snowpack. On March 26 snowpack as a percent of average was declining in the Arkansas basin and San Luis Valley but by the end April things had improved considerably.

The winter was dominated by La Niña. Cool water in the eastern Pacific Ocean off South America often sets up very wet conditions in the northern Rockies and a drying out across the southern Rockies. That’s pretty much what happened this year.

Up until the gangbuster snowmakers of April the eastern San Juans, Sangre de Cristos and Wet Mountains all had below average snowpack.

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News from the San Luis Valley

by Patty LaTaille

Half a Million Grant for Improving Saguache

The Town of Saguache received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to fund 4th Street renovation and improvements as outlined in the Saguache Downtown Revitalization Project. This work will begin this summer in time for Saguache to host the San Luis Valley Rural Philanthropy Days event on Sept. 14 – 16.


Toddler Trauma

Sheila Martinez is recovering from surgery to remove a swallowed screwdriver at the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center in Alamosa. The little girl, who is nearly two years old, underwent surgery to remove a three and a half inch eyeglass screwdriver. The operation lasted about an hour.

According to The Denver Post, her family says she is doing well but they have no idea how she got her hands on the screwdriver.

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From the Editor

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – Emma Lazarus


This excerpt from The New Colossus appears on a bronze tablet that resides in the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. It is very likely that statue was the first sign to welcome each one of my grandparents to their new home back in the 1890s.

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Historic Hotel Faces Foreclosure

LEADVILLE – The historic Tabor Grand Hotel in Leadville is facing foreclosure – by its owner.

The city of Leadville received a notice of foreclosure on the property on May 9. Marcel Arsenault claimed that the first lienholder, Superior Investment, intends to foreclose on the property. Arsenault is 100 percent owner of Superior Investment as well as 100 percent owner of Capital Solutions which owns the hotel. He claims the building continues to operate at a deficit, according to the Leadville Herald-Democrat.

Completed in 1884 and opened in July 1885, the hotel was renamed the Hotel Kitchen in 1887 after being purchased by the Kitchen brothers, according to the Democrat. In 1892 it was again renamed, this time the Vendome, which over the years fell into disrepair and eventually closed in the 1980s. In July 1989 a section of the building collapsed after a heavy rain. It was then purchased by Arsenault, who restored the building with the aid of public funding and renamed it the Tabor Grand. There are currently about 50 residents living in the building.

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Q&A with author, journalist and Colorado First Lady Helen Thorpe

Editor’s note: Helen Thorpe, a freelance journalist living in Denver, released her first book, “Just Like Us,” in 2009 to much praise. The book documents the struggles of four young Denver women of Mexican descent adapting to life in the United States. It won the Colorado Book Award and was released in paperback in May 2011.

Helen also happens to be married to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Central: What first inspired you to write about immigrant students in Colorado?

Helen: I’ve always been interested in stories about immigration, because my parents immigrated to this country with me when I was a small child. They had legal entry visas, but the experience made me curious to know what it would be like to be brought here without legal status.

At first I was trying to find one undocumented student. And then I stumbled across four close friends, who were divided in terms of their immigration status. Two of the girls had legal status and two did not. Watching them interact illuminated the obstacles that the pair of girls without documents faced, because at every key juncture life was harder for them than it was for the documented girls.

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