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Descendants of family chased out of Colorado town due to racism return to find grandfather’s lost gravesite

Salvador Jose Samano was a fierce union advocate for Colorado coal miners and a target of the KKK in the early 1900s. He now has a new gravestone.

LAFAYETTE, Colo. — 94 years to the day of his grandfather’s death, David Samano stood next to a new gravestone and said the words “we belong” before a small crowd of residents and family members.

Buried in a potter’s field in 1929 and his gravesite lost in Lafayette records, Salvador Jose Samano was remembered on Friday as an advocate for Colorado coal miners. 

A Mexican immigrant, Samano was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World union who fought for the rights of Colorado coal miners, many of whom were also immigrants.

“It is rumored he was killed by the KKK,” David Samano said, believing his grandfather was poisoned on May 5, 1929. 

“My grandmother was ran out of this town and was put on a train and sent to California. All the Samanos were run out of this town shortly after his death. The KKK was fierce,” David Samano said. 

Salvador Jose Samano’s gravesite was lost for decades, but after local activist Frank Archuleta searched old church and mortuary records, he was able to find the exact location in Lafayette’s old cemetery. 

In the process, Archuleta said he also found the names of many others whose gravesites have been lost or erased from records, especially babies and children with Hispanic surnames. 

“And this was all weeds down here. This part right here, but our families who were Chicanos, Latinos, Mexicanos, they're all in this area right here,” Archuleta said. 

David Samano bought a new headstone for his grandfather which was blessed by a Catholic deacon on Friday as family members prayed and read from a poem about Samano. 

Archuleta said he is still trying to get the City of Lafayette to recognize the many other immigrants and Latino people of whose gravesites have long been unmarked. 

Salvador Samano’s children went on to serve in the US military. 

“These are Lafayette's children. They did this after being ran out of Lafayette and put on a train. They still love this country enough. More than enough to go and fight and die for this country. The Hispanics. It doesn't matter who you are. We're all we're all here. We're all great American patriots,” David Samano said. 

If you have any information about this story or would like to send a news tip, you can contact reporter Jeremy Jojola at jeremy@9news.com.

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