Nearly half of History Colorado’s recent round of grants came to these southeastern Colorado sites

Courtesy of History Colorado.
The Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos, which translates to The Society for the Mutual Protection of Workers, was founded in 1900 as a mutual aid fund for the Hispanic community in Antonito, Colorado.

Historic preservation projects in southeastern Colorado are getting some $2.3 million in state funds. Twice a year, History Colorado’s State Historical Fund issues grants for preservation projects. In the most recent round 12 of the 25 projects funded were in southeastern Colorado. 

“We are looking for projects that involve historic buildings or archaeology in Colorado, and we are also looking for projects that just have a strong public benefit,” History Colorado’s Chief Preservation Officer Patrick Eidman said. “These projects can continue to serve their communities.” 

One of the largest grants, more than $240,000, went to the Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos, which translates to The Society for the Mutual Protection of Workers. This is the 10th grant that the fund has given to the organization since 2016, totaling nearly $900,000 says Eidman. 

The SPMDTU was founded in 1900 as a mutual aid fund for the Hispanic community in Antonito, Colorado. It acted as a resource for members, who could donate or ask for financial help when needed.

“Looking back at the early 1900s when the Hispano community didn’t have access to bank loans and insurance,” Eidman said, “They formed this organization to fill both that financial role in the community, but then also really as an advocate and activist group in support of Hispano workers.”  

The organization played a key role in a 1914 lawsuit in Alamosa, which challenged racial segregation in schools—one of the first in the nation to do so, according to History Colorado. The court eventually ruled in their favor, allowing children to attend whichever school was closest to them. 

 The SPMDTU council building, Concilio Superior, became one of the largest meeting places in the city. 

“The people of the community can relate to the message of the SPMDTU,” said longtime Antonito resident Joe Torres, who owns the construction company managing the renovations. “(There are a) lot of stories of people’s aunts, parents, grandparents, being involved in the SPMDTU itself, or having memories of the building.”

The adobe building fell into disrepair over the years, though. It had structural problems and the interior needed to be brought up to code, causing the SPMDTU to move its meeting locations. Rehabilitation has been a multi-year process, according to Torres, and the total cost has been some $1.5 million.

“As [the SPMDTU] conceptualized the current project, they really focused on how the building serves the community today,” said Eidman. “It isn’t about this historic building being stuck in a moment in time but embracing that history and understanding and really supporting how it can best serve the community.”

Torres said they’re carrying this mission out. “The final product is going to be a real asset to the community for many different functions and activities that can happen there,” he said. “Anything from concerts to parties that can reserve the hall. A lot of things can happen there.”

The SPMDTU  hopes to reopen Concilio Superior in spring of 2024. The renovated space will house a new museum and educational area of the building dedicated to the organization’s history. Other additions include an apartment for a live-in groundskeeper, gender-neutral restrooms, and an electric car charging station.

These History Colorado grants have totaled some $350 million in the span of 30 years, according to Eidman. The grants are funded using state revenues from limited-stakes gaming in Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, and Central City. This time around, they awarded $4.8 million in grants.

The Centennial School District R-1 in Costilla County also received more than $90,000 to update the century-old Garcia School. According to a press release from History Colorado, the funds will help develop construction documents to guide the rehabilitation of the building and turn it into an adult learning center and community gathering space. The school was listed on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List in 2023 due to neglect, weather exposure, and lack of resources.

More projects that have been funded in Southeastern Colorado include: 

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History Colorado is an underwriter of KRCC.