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Preserving History and Culture Along the Colorado River

November 9, 2011

DENVER - As the federal government develops a model for preserving the Colorado River basin, one often-overlooked group is trying to make sure its voice is heard.

Nuestro Rio, an organization which highlights the Latino influence along the Colorado, organizes activities including community forums and field trips to river sites for Denver dwellers. This week, the community held a roundtable discussion with Assistant Interior Secretary Anne Castle. Nuestro Rio coordinator Amber Tafoya says they're hoping the government will take into account the cultural history found all along the Colorado River.

"What it gets down to is to maintain our cultural heritage. Our towns need to be vital. Our towns are starting to dry up and we want to make sure that doesn't happen."

Ultimately, Tafoya says, her group would like to offer solutions from the perspective of the Latino community to the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study, helping to develop a plan that will make best use of the water while preserving the region's cultural heritage.

Tafoya also is educating the Latino community. Last month, she took a group of high school students on a rafting trip on the Colorado, where they learned about the river's history and gathered water samples. Teacher Jaime Gomez supervised students on the tour.

"I really hope that they start to learn and understand why it's a really important element from our ancestors to today."

Tafoya says the Latino communities along the Colorado include San Luis, which was the first town to take out Colorado River water rights.

"Our cultural legacy in the Southwest goes back hundreds of years. So, when these towns go, there really is no place to go back to. You know, it would be like if we ran out of enough water for Plymouth or some of the original towns on the East Coast where people settled."

The Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand website is

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO