Year of events to mark Ludlow Massacre

April 19, 2013
photo - Children in the Ludlow mining camp. Photo by University of Denver
Children in the Ludlow mining camp. Photo by University of Denver 

A delegation of southern Colorado mayors, county commissioners and historians trekked to Denver on Friday for a gubernatorial proclamation: The next year, from April 20, 2013 to April 20, 2014 has been dubbed the Year of the Ludlow Massacre Centennial.

The massacre of April 20, 1914 at a Las Animas County mining camp was the climax of a months-long miners’ strike against the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, after it evicted miners from their homes.

The strike culminated in the massacre of 20 people, but also went down in history as landmark-event for miners’ and workers rights. The Ludlow Massacre, as it became known, inspired poems, monuments, and even change to mining unions. Museums and towns across Colorado will spend the next year honoring the event, with exhibits in Pueblo, Trinidad, Denver and Colorado Springs, as well as the annual memorial ceremony in Las Animas County on September 22.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proclamation also created a commission of miners, historians, and local officials to oversee the statewide effort to commemorate Ludlow.

The big events will be in September, when the strike started, and next April. In between Trinidad expects to host Ludlow-themed events, such as a coal festival in July, said Dawn DiPrince, of the El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo.

Students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will be reading two books about the massacre this fall, said the university’s Curator of Anthropology, Karin Larkin.

For former Trinidad miner Bob Butero sees the commemorative year as a chance to reclaim some of Trinidad’s identity, and possibly bring a small economic boom to the town, which has suffered since the collapse of the mining industry nearly 20 years ago.

Trinidad was once the second-largest city in Colorado, bursting with Italian, Greek, and other European immigrants who flocked along with native Coloradans to the area’s coal mines. Butero’s mother was born in a mining camp there, and his father was an Italian immigrant. Butero and his brothers became miners.

Now, as a regional director for the United Mine Workers of American (UMWA) union, Butero feels that he owes much to the Ludlow miners. Every year, the UMWA gathers miners to honor the legacy of those who survived and died at Ludlow.

“They were pioneers for these workers, and their efforts there led to a better life for me as a coal miner,” Butero said on Friday.

Although not personally connected to the Ludlow Massacre, Butero has met many people over the years who trace their coal-mining lineage back to the event. But now that Trinidad’s older citizens are dying out, Butero thinks that a connection with the city’s past has been lost. He hopes that the centennial celebration will rekindle some of Trinidad’s pride.

“I think you’ve got to celebrate your past. You’ve got to know where you came from and what made you,” Butero said. “I think that people lose that sense of pride, you know?”

Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261

Twitter @ryanmhandy

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