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Southern Colorado music being preserved by this CU project

The archives will be available in the school's digital library and will also be available at CSU Pueblo.

SAN LUIS, Colorado — Hundreds of miles from Denver rest hundreds of years of history. San Luis, Colorado's oldest town wears the past like a badge of honor. The buildings are rugged and worn but still standing. 

"People came over, they settled here," Sam Medina, a native to these parts said. 

"When they came over, they brought with them a lot of traditions, customs, values and beliefs that they got from their ancestors, who got these from Spain and Mexico and then while they were here they developed a unique culture." 

The culture created in the San Luis valley brought with it its own music. A type of improve song called ''versos.' The songs are made up on the spot by 'verseros' or singers. Popular versos were passed down through the years.

"The versos are a four-line quatrain where the second line and fourth line, rhyme," Medina said.

"A lot of people became very good at composing these versos and they actually went from house to house and brought in the New Year and shared good feelings and happiness and well-being for the coming year."

Medina's cousin, Gilbert Guadalupe Medina, is one of the last few that can still strum the versos melody. The 87-year-old worries the once-popular piece of history may fade. 

"Its pretty hard for younger generation to tell them about the old traditions because they’re forgetting their own language," Gilbert said. 

"We have a history and a culture that is very rich in tradition and customs and values and we should be proud of that, not let it die down," Sam added. 

That concern is why the two cousins agreed to be with CU Boulder Dr. Susan Thomas and her colleague Dr. Xochitl Chavez.

The team created CU's Soundscapes of the People a project recording historic music tailored to southern Colorado. 

"The long term goals of this project is that people will be able to have access and have something tangible to listen, see and maybe touch in some way, the items of their heritage their roots right and building identity," Dr. Xochitl Chavez said. 

With a small camera, the professors have traveled to the Pueblo area to study the music and music-making that is carried on through the years. 

"This is a really exciting way to connect with the community but also an important way to preserve their knowledge for their descendants down the road," Dr. Thomas said.

CU plans to record a variety of Latino artists in the coming months. The archives will be available in the school's digital library and will also be available at CSU Pueblo.

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