TRINIDAD, Colo. — We are Southern Colorado and Trinidad is known as ‘The Hidden Gem of Southern Colorado’.
Its history is rich with blended cultures, adventurers, frontiersmen, and revolutionaries. It is known for its coal miners, and for over half a century this charming town has been known as the sex change capital of the world.
Trinidad History Museum guide, Aneya said, “Trinidad is a place that reinvents itself a lot.”
It is ‘The Hidden Gem of Southern Colorado’.
“This is a town that was established way back in, I think it was 1876, actually before that. But I think that was when the city was incorporated,” said Phillip Rico, the mayor of Trinidad.
In 1861, Trindad was established along the Santa Fe Trail by a rancher from New Mexico named Felipe Baca.
Aneya said, “He started the first irrigation ditch. It was a 400 foot irrigation ditch, back in about 1861. So that gave him land and water rights in this area.”
It’s still known as Baca Ditch to this day.
“A lot of different nationalities came from all over the world to live and mostly work here in the coal mines,” said Mayor Rico.
The city flourished from the late 1870s to the 1910s as the capital of Southern Colorado’s coal-producing region.
Aneya said, “The coal workers all came together to protest and show them that they needed a better work environment to help them along.”
About 15 miles north of Trinidad, you’ll find a ghost town called Ludlow. In 1914, it was the scene of what is now known as the Ludlow Massacre, when a battle broke out between the Colorado National Guard and striking coal miners and their families. 25 people were killed, including 11 children.
“That was a very unfortunate event but it also marked a time in history where things started to change and started getting better work environments and conditions for the coal miners,” said Aneya.
It’s those workers and the generations after them who still make up the Trinidad of today.
“A lot of them have stayed,” Mayor Rico said. “Their descendants have stayed here, so we do have a lot of history behind us from culture there, various cultures in our community.”
Mine closures and economic decline in the 20th century actually saved many of the city’s historic buildings, which have been preserved ever since.
“There’s still 80 some-odd buildings that were built from the late 1800s to the early 1900s that are still intact and the facades are still intact,” said Mayor Rico.
El Corazon De Trinidad, or The Heart of Trinidad, is the national historic district that makes up a well-preserved portion of downtown.
“Take a look through town, look at our community, look at our buildings. Start there and look and see how how we’ve try to keep these buildings intact,” Mayor Rico said.
And of course there’s the equally loved and loathed historic brick streets.
“As time goes on, we try to fix them up. But the brick streets are pretty rough and these brick streets have been around for 100 years,” said Mayor Rico.
You can’t talk about the history of Trinidad without mentioning that, for over half a century, it was the “sex-change capital of the world.” In 1969, Dr. Stanley Biber started the country’s first private practice for gender reassignment surgery at Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad. Biber and his protégé, Dr. Marci Bowers, performed at least 6,000 gender reassignment surgeries between 1969 and 2010. To most locals, it’s just one of the many things that makes this charming city so unique.
“Over the years, it has a humongous history of everything that has gone on in not only in Trinidad, but the entire Las Animas County,” said Mayor Rico.