La Sierra
(ongoing)

2019-2022, ongoing community project, San Luis, Colorado

Through methods of drone-photography, photogrammetry, and oral histories, this project partners with a community’s resistance to the theft of inherited land by equipping its youth with the tools to preserve the stories of their elders and cultivate their own meaningful experiences with the land they have been denied.

 

For the past 60 years, a community of predominantly Chicanx families in Costilla County, Colorado have fought for their ancestral rights to the access and resources of an 83,000-acre mountain tract known as ‘La Sierra.’ Originally part of the Sangre de Cristo land grant, this community relied on the inherited, communal resources of La Sierra for generations only to be fenced out of their land, their livelihood, and their cultural history in 1960 when the land was acquired through shady business dealings. Community elders who once cherished holidays spent in the valleys and crags of La Sierra fear their fight for the land will die with them; their children and grandchildren never having known the same meaningful experiences beyond the gates that now bar their entry.

In partnership with Kevin Sweet and local community organizer Shirley Romero Otero, we aim to produce a multimodal artwork bringing together drone imagery, photogrammetry, oral histories, media production workshops, and virtual reality technology to create a simulated experience of locally significant sites within the mountain tract. We have been working with a local youth outreach called Move Mountains to teach the younger generation of land heirs how to produce walkable, virtual sites, to be experienced through VR headsets, which will be populated by the stories and scanned artifacts of the older generation within the community. As collaborators in this process, young people in the community transform the tools that have been used against them into tools of resistance.