Trujillo Homesteads National Historic Landmark, along with the adjacent Medano Ranch and Zapata Ranch, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All three historic ranches are located west of Great Sand Dunes.
While the Trujillo Homesteads comprise a small area compared with the 103,000 acre Medano-Zapata Ranches, the Trujillo story plays a integral role in the volatile history of the region during westward expansion of the United States.
As Utes were slowly relinquishing this area around 1870, European-American and Hispanic settlers homesteaded the land. Wealthier ranchers quickly began buying out - or driving out - smaller landholders, in a version of the range wars that erupted across the American West. Several Mexican settlers made an effort to claim the Zapata Ranch in 1874, but their papers were declared a forgery by the U.S. Surveyor General. The land was then quickly purchased by the Dickey brothers, who already owned the Medano Ranch. During this era, the small Trujillo homesteads became the target of resentment by the larger European-American cattle ranching community.
In 1879, just west of the Medano Ranch, Pedro Trujillo built a log home quite different from his father Teofilo's nearby Spanish-style adobe dwelling. In an interview, Pedro recalled the cultural conflicts between Hispanic and European-American settlers - and within his own family. The interviewer recorded that, unlike Teofilo, Pedro "refused to become a sheepherder, and argued with his father that the sheep would cause him trouble, as that had always been cattle country." Sadly, Pedro's warnings were accurate. Teofilo's house was burned down in 1902 by a few area cowboys, and the Trujillo family relocated to a region of the valley with more Hispanic people.
A New Era
After decades of instability in the area, the Linger family began a new era in 1911, thriving and raising two generations of children on the Medano-Zapata. Former racial tensions dwindled as they befriended and employed isolated Hispanic neighbors, including descendents of the Trujillo family. The ranches transitioned into a century of stability and prosperity. The Pedro Trujillo Homestead was now part of the Medano Ranch.
Healing and Restoration
In the photo at left, the Linger children give a wagon ride to their friend Benito Martinez (center), Pedro Trujillo's grandson. Bob Linger recalls: "After the old conflicts between Hispanic sheepherders and European-American cattlemen, this was a place of restored relationships." Benito and his family lived with the Linger family, who provided ranch positions and friendship to them in an era when it was not the norm.
The Pedro Trujillo Homestead Today
The restored Pedro Trujillo homestead (pictured), and scattered remains of the Teofilo Trujillo Homestead, are located on the boundary between Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. The site is on a private inholding, and is not accessible to the public.
Trujillo Descendants - In Their Own Words (National Park Service Video Interview on YouTube, 10 Minutes)
Descendants of Teofilo and Pedro Trujillo share stories and thoughts about their family's history, and the cultural conflicts that led to the burning down of Teofilo's house in 1902.
Trujillo Homesteads - Digital Flythrough (National Park Service Video on YouTube, 4 minutes)
Take a digital visual tour of the Trujillo Homesteads National Historic Landmark.
Last updated: April 5, 2020