Started under Spanish rule, the system of land grants was continued by the Mexican government after they gained independence from Spain in 1821. The San Luis Valley was part of Mexico’s northern frontier along with the Taos and Cimarron areas. Some “strangers” such as French Canadians were allowed to settle in these areas. One of these French Canadians was Charles Beaubien who came in 1824, became a citizen , and married a woman from Taos.
Another naturalized citizen was Stephen Louis Lee originally from Missouri. He and Beaubien’s son, Narcisco, petitioned Governor Manuel Armijo for the 1 million acre Sangre de Cristo Land Grant in the San Luis Valley. In 1844 they received the land but when they were both killed 3 years later during the Taos Rebellion, the grant went to Charles Beaubien
In 1848, after the Mexican War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo was signed guaranteeing the new American citizens the right to the grants which they had previously been given. Beaubien’s title was confirmed by the US Congress in 1860. However, Beaubien died 4 years later and the land was sold to Col. William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado
Gilpin’s grant was sold to Eastern investors in 1869 and was then divided into two parts, the Trinchero estate in the north and the Costilla estate in the south. At this time there were 2000 hispanics living on the land.
The eastern developers attempted to sell the Costilla portion to Dutch immigrants who would not agree to buy the land unless the “La Gente” already living there were removed. The inhabitants produced legal documents to their title from Carlos Beabien, but the documents were ignored.
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Many men who settled in San Luis were members of an ancient order of lay brothers called La Coffradia or La Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno. This brotherhood grew in response to the scarcity of priests in the frontier area. They handled disputes, conducted wakes, and headed the commemoration during holy week of the Passion of Christ
Also known as Los Hermanos, the brotherhood was known by their private houses of worship called moradas meaning “holy places”. Los Hermanos has a long somewhat hidden history going back perhaps as early as the late 1500s.
The same year that San Luis was founded, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy arrived in Santa Fe with fellow French priests. He had little respect for Los Hermanos which forced Los Hermanos underground. They remained in seclusion until recognized in 1947 by the Archbishop.
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