Colorado gets first Latina state historian

'I’d like to see more unrecognized stories shared publicly'

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Colorado State Historian is a position that has been around for almost 100 years, dating back to 1924.

On Aug. 1 — also known as Colorado Day, celebrating the date when the state joined the Union — Nicki Gonzales will begin her one-year term as the official state historian.

Nearly 22% of Coloradans are Hispanic or Latino, and despite the state historian position being around for nearly a century, Gonzales is the first Latino person to be named state historian.

Gonzales is a professor of history and vice provost for diversity and inclusion at Regis University. A mother of two sons, Gonzales is based in Denver, but her family has “deep roots” in Southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, according to History Colorado.

Gonzales also part of History Colorado’s State Historian’s Council, which the state historian leads.

“History is one of the most effective ways we can understand ourselves and our present moment,” Gonzales said in a statement. “I’d like to see more unrecognized stories shared publicly so we can arrive at a truer sense of where we’ve been and who we are.”

History Colorado said Gonzales is interested in researching Southern Colorado’s land grant movements as well as the experiences of Chicano Vietnam Veterans. She also served as an advisor for the History Colorado exhibit “El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Colorado.”

“Gonzales’ historical expertise focuses on Chicano history and Southwest social and political movements,” History Colorado wrote in a statement. “She plans to incorporate youth in the exploration of Colorado’s past during her term as state historian, and to support more inclusive practices of historical inquiry.

“In doing so, Gonzales is eager to raise more awareness about historical events with significant contemporary legacies, such as the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, about which History Colorado is currently collaborating with tribal partners to present a long-term exhibition,” the organization’s statement added.

Gonzales succeeds Duane Vandenbuscha professor of history at Western Colorado University in Gunnison, as the Colorado state historian.

This story is from Rocky Mountain PBS, a nonprofit providing news and information across Colorado over the air and online. Used by permission. For more, and to support Rocky Mountain PBS, visit rmpbs.org.

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