The Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA).

A Little History…

Native Americans were the first to discover the area surrounding Rio Costilla, recognizing it as a special place. Natives used the area for hunting, fishing and farming.  A keen eye may still find an arrowhead, drilling tool, a metate or manos for grinding seed have been found.  Petroglyphs have been found and tours will be available in the future.

Conquistadors came to know this area in 1540.  Explorer Coronado was the first to search out these mountains and valleys that fringe the Rio Grande in Northern Taos County.  Speculation is that Coronado was the first westerner to see Taos Pueblo, then known as Braba.  Other explores soon followed: Onate in 1589, Diego de Vargas in 1692 and De Anza in 1779.  Trappers came through what is known as the community of Costilla, New Mexico.  What is now New Mexico was claimed by Spain from 1589 to 1821 when Mexico gained independence from Spain.  The Mexican-American War put New Mexico under the present possession of the United States of America in 1845.

The New Mexico farming communities of Costilla and Amalia and Garcia, Colorado were founded in the early 1800’s.  They were all part of Taos County and were listed as in the first American census of 1850.  The entire San Luis Valley was all part of Taos County.  The 1860 census and 1870 census lists Garcia, Colorado as La Costilla, Colorado. Garcia was also known as La Plaza de los Manzanares.  Costilla the Spanish word meaning “rib”, describing the resemblance found in the Costilla Creek.  Legends tell that Amalia was the name of a beautiful girl who once lived among the community, then know as Pina, Spanish for pine. The three main communities had a population of approximately 3,000 individuals in 1850.

The mountain range known as the Sangre de Cristo, the Spanish word meaning “Blood of Christ” were named earlier as the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, made to Luis Lee and Narciso Beaubien in 1843 by the Republic of Mexico.  The Maxwell Land Grant was another Grant that is east of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant.  It was an earlier Grant made to Charles Beaubien who later assigned the Grant to his Son-in-law Lucien Maxwell, was confirmed by the Congress of the United States in favor of Charles Beaubien on June 21, 1860, by an Act entitled, “An Act to confirm certain private land claims in the territory of New Mexico.”  The legality of the land grant remained intact when New Mexico was admitted to the Union in 1912.  The Sangre de Cristo Land Grant however has had a long history of controversy.  The original owners Narciso Beaubien, Charles Beaubien’s son and Luis Lee were killed during the Taos Pueblo Revolt.  The revolt was initiated by Taos Pueblo Natives and local Taos inhabitants opposed to the American occupation of New Mexico.  Charles Beaubien then became the heir of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant which he sold to William Gilpin the first governor of Colorado with the understanding that the current residents be given title to the lands they currently occupied in 1860.  Charles Beaubien died in 1864 and Governor Gilpin attempted to evict the settlers from the land. The settlers of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant included the relatives of Charles and Paula (Lovato) Beaubien.  Paula’s uncle Marcelo Lovato and his family are listed in the 1850 census as living in Taos County and in the 1860 census as living in Costilla.  His children lived in Costilla and later moved along with other settlers because of the conflicts with land rights and especially water rights to irrigate.  They were unable to make a living in the area.  Home Steaders were claiming more and more land and demands on the waters from the Trinchera, Culebra and Rio Costilla all part of the original Sangre de Cristo Land Grant.   

There was a brief flurry of excitement when gold was discovered along Jaroso Creek.  Old log cabins, used by hardy miners and early settlers, gold mine ruins and old sawmills are still visible throughout the area.  A modern day explorer, through persistent painting, may uncover a fleck or two of gold.

Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA) purchased 80,000 acres, one part of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, in 1942.  Cattle ranching was the primary focus at the time.  In the 1950’s the land began to be seen for its unique recreational value.  In 1983, visitors were given the opportunity to hunt, fish and camp in designated portions of the ranch.

RCCLA has managed what has become Rio Costilla in an effort to sustain its abundant wildlife and ensue population increase in the future.  Rio Costilla is striking for its purity and grandeur.  Most notable are the spectacular mountain views of Latir, Mount Blanca and Ortiz Peaks that may be seen from many areas within Rio Costilla.  Our very own Big Costilla Peak, Ventero Peak and adjacent peaks are the most prominent in the area, with elevations ranging from 12,700 to 12,900 feet.

History Facts

1690          Bartolome II Labato was baptized at San Ildefonso, NM.  The earliest Lobato descendent living in present day New Mexico.      

1692          Governor and General Diego de Vargas crossed the Rio Costilla.  The Rio Costilla flows from northern New Mexico and crosses the Colorado state line and enters the Rio Grande, known as the Rio Del Norte.                                                                                                       

1715          Capitan Juan Jose Lovato was born in Albuquerque, NM. Son of Bartolome Lovato II.  He married Elena de Vargas MacHuca great great granddaughter of Diego de Vargas.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

1736          Antonio Jose Lobato I was born in Ojo Caliente, NM.  Son of Juan Jose Lobato.  He married Margarita Martin at Picuris de San Lorenzo, NM.    

1768          Antonio Jose Lovato II was born in Embudo, NM.  Son of Antonio Jose Lovato I.  He was baptized at San Juan de los Caballeros, NM (Espanola).

1779          Governor Juan Bautista de Anza crossed the Rio Costilla.  He called it Rio Datil.                                                                                                          

1800          Juan Catarina Lovato was born.  Daughter of Antonio Jose Lovato II.  Her brother Marcelo Lovato and Francisco Lovato are listed in the 1850 USA Census for Taos County. 

1800          Charles Beaubien was born in Canada.  He was a fur trapper and married Mario Paula Lovato in 1827.  She was 15 years old and
daughter of Juana Catarina Lovato.                                                                                                                                                                                    

1801          Marcelo Lovato is listed as living in Costilla in the 1860 USA Census for Taos County.                                                                                           

1820          A total of 106 Land Grants were granted to Pueblos, Tribes and Villagers in New Mexico by Spain.                                                                               

1821          Mexico gained independence from Spain.

1836          Jose Manuel was born in Taos County, NM.  Son of Marcelo Lovato. He is listed along with his family as in Costilla in the 1870 USA Census.  He is the father to Toribio Lovato.

1841          Charles Beaubien along with New Mexico’s Governor Manuel Armijo petitioned for a grant on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains of 1,700,000 acres.  This grant would later become his own son in laws grant; Lucien Maxwell and his wife Maria de la Luz Beaubien, Maria Paula Lovato’s daughter. 

1843          Charles Beaubien petitioned for a second land grant of 1 million acres under his son’s name Narciso Beaubien only 16 years old and Stephen Louis Lee, a business associate.

1846          United States gained New Mexico after the Mexican-American War.  Charles Bent was appointed governor.  Charles Beaubien was named as one of the judges to the Supreme Court.

1847          Taos Revolt erupted and Narciso Beuabien, Stephen Lois and Governor Charles Bent were killed.

1858          Toribio Lovato was born in the Territory of New Mexico.  He died in Costilla on March 27, 1936 after years of struggling to gain title to the land that was to be inherited by the heirs of Charles Beuabien and Maria Paula Lovato.

1860          The Sangre de Cristo Grants was approved by Congress.

1863          Charles Beaubien sold the grant to William Gilpin the first governor of Colorado.  Gilpin tried to evict the settlers, ignoring Beaubien’s agreement to protect the settlers.

1871          The Sangre de Cristo Grant was divided into the Trinchera and the Costilla.

1942          After several yeas of struggle Bolivar Martinez, Anastacio Vallejos, Juan Martinez, M.D. Barela, Alex Ortega, Adolfo Gallegos, Benji Arelllano, Celestino Gallegos and Cipriano Salazar established the first meeting of what was left of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant.  They established the By-Laws for the land they purchased from the State of New Mexico for non payment of taxes.  Additional members were admitted as provided by the By-Laws of the Association.