Rep. Martinez recognizes history preservation effort of Vigil
SAN LUIS VALLEY — After working tirelessly for over 20 years collecting the oral history of San Luis Valley, Rick Vigil of Down to Earth Media was recognized by the Colorado House of Representatives.
State Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-62) sent Vigil a commendation letter and certificate for, "exceptional service to the San Luis Valley...dedication to preserving the history of the Valley...and unwavering commitment to keeping the stories of the people, towns, and churches that have shaped the Valley's history alive for generations to come."
Vigil's wife and daughter, who are an integral part of Down to Earth Media, were also included in the recognition.
Vigil is from Antonito. He saw the area’s history disappearing with each person's passing. In 2000, Vigil started Down to Earth Media to record people's stories about their life so it could be shared with future generations.
"Elders are like open books, and when they die so do their stories. If we lose our traditions, we lose our identity," Vigil said.
Vigil continues to make documentaries films about the people and places in San Luis Valley.
“Videos are a compilation of stories and more commercial. Films document people's lives and spoken words," he said.
He was honored and surprised to receive the recognition and feels "it validates my work" but reiterated that “it is about people telling their stories. (We) have to treasure and protect it. It's about the people. Thank you to the equal participants. People are generous to give their time and share their stories. That's what makes it so special."
The short films also feature original "Valley music." His DVDs are unique because, "from beginning to end they are produced by someone who grew up and lived in San Luis Valley."
Vigil said he is currently working on the history of the forgotten town of Cenicero. He interviewed Theresa Jaramillo who told of an ancestor who was one of the first Pony Express riders from Antonito to Denver. She passed away a couple of weeks ago. Vigil was able to record her story before her passing.
Vigil would like to see his DVDs become part of the school curriculum. He feels they “belong in the classroom, not on the shelf, like past history...to connect people with their oral history, told by the community. There is a misconception about people in San Luis Valley. They think we have a Mexican or Latin American culture. The people of San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico have a unique culture. Valley music is different. The manito language is unique. The story is powerful in itself. People should take pride in themselves and who you are. The kids need to be educated in oral history."
Vigil would also like to have an education event at Adams State University, with a panel of elders and youth from around San Luis Valley, inviting Rep. Martinez.
"Everyone has a story. People don't understand. We are all different — not the same, with unique food, language, music. The stories are authentic. We're here only a few minutes on Earth,” he said.
To add your story to the history of San Luis Valley, contact Rick Vigil at 303-842-9579 or visit downtoearthmedia.org.