June is Immigrant Heritage Month! Every year, TCHNetwork celebrates this month by honoring the contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to our culture and economy in Southwestern Colorado. Many of the towns in Tri-County Health Network’s coverage area began as small mining camps that were home to immigrants from all over the world. Over time, some of these mining camps grew to be economic hubs unto themselves, while many have faded into history and dot our landscape today as ghost towns.
Interestingly, many of our local roadways pre-date even European migration–they were used first as footpaths for migratory groups of indigenous people like the Ute and Anasazi. Some of these footpaths were later used by immigrant pioneers like Otto Mears, the “Pathfinder of the San Juans,” and converted into roadways and rail lines. Otto himself was born and raised in Estonia before migrating to California. He eventually settled in Colorado, where he earned a reputation building roads to connect towns like Durango and Ridgway or Silverton and Ouray. Immigrants like Otto Mears have left an indelible mark on the history of Colorado.
Today, many immigrants continue to come to Southwestern Colorado from all over the world. Some work as teachers or ski instructors, others work on local farms or in the tourism sector. Thankfully, immigrants bring their language and culture with them. In Southwestern Colorado we see evidence of that in the number of restaurants serving food from Latin America, or in the number of schools that have dual-immersion programs so that all young children can learn both English and Spanish—a valuable skill that opens the door to different economic and cultural opportunities.
We hope you will think about your immigrant roots and the immigrants you know this month. Share stories about how immigrants impact your life. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the different reasons that the TCHNetwork team celebrates immigrants! Let’s all stand with immigrants!