Arturo Sandoval



Last month the High Peaks Deep Roots (HPDR) Ecotourism Cooperative in Truchas, New Mexico launched its second season with a medicinal plant tour guided by curandera Sabinita Herrera. Now in her 80s and slowed a bit by various ailments, Herrera nevertheless was eager to share her knowledge of wild, locally grown herbs and plants used for centuries by Nuevo Mexicanos to heal illnesses, aches, cuts and bruises. An eager throng of 15 people crowded around her tiny shop, attached to her home on a high mesa below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Herrera learned about the healing power of herbs from her father, who in turn had learned from his mother. Among the many plants she uses are osha, yerba del manso, Flor de Santa Rita and plumajillo.


The ecotour also included the home of the nationally acclaimed artist Isabro Ortega. Under construction for 30 years, his home, with its detailed woodworking, is an incredible artistic work that was featured in The New York Times last winter.


HPDR offers a full slate of half-day and full-day trips, and has several four-day, three-night horseback trips deep into the Pecos Wilderness already booked this season. HPDR guides teach about the Spanish names for peaks and valleys in the Pecos and tell stories of how their ancestors used wooden tools to carve acequias out of the mountains to water their fields.


The guides, having taken numerous safety courses, have learned to use special equipment for winter tours, including snowshoes, shoe grips and other equipment to ensure their guests are safe while enjoying the landscape. The guides have also taken classes on birding, flora and other relevant topics.


HPDR was incorporated as a for-profit cooperative in 2011 by seven land grant herederos (inheritors), family members,” said HPDR President Sammy Córdova, Sr. “The overarching goal is to create economic benefits through the Cooperative Development Center of New Mexico’s (CODECE) Sustainable Communities Model.” According to Córdova, there are two revenue-generating areas: sustainable tourism and forest contracts. HPDR has identified two key markets: those who are part of the LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) demographic (from the 1.6 million annual visitors to Santa Fe), and Nuevo Mexicanos, primarily from Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque markets.


Special Events

While the focus of HPDR’s ecotourism business plan is to create a sustainable base for the Outdoor Services Cooperative, an equally important objective is to benefit local community members and help create healthy, sustainable communities. Some of the events HPDR presents (or is planning to present) clearly have this second objective in mind:


Storytelling Festival

With the history of oral storytelling within the Native American and Hispano cultures, the HPDR initiative provides an ideal backdrop to promote the tradition as part of a storytelling festival that incorporates the area’s history. This event features local and professional storytellers and musicians.


Community Potluck Storytelling Event

This offers an open invitation to all community members to a night of potluck food and storytelling. People can share local stories about the colorful history of the Land Grant. This reminds people of their rich cultural roots and sometimes leads to discussions about the current forces of social change and how to meet these challenges.



HPDR has prioritized having a monthly traditional cookout (matanza) from May through September. These traditional meals include a slow-cooked sheep or goat, side dishes like chicos and beans, and other fresh, organic produce. The co-op is considering a format of every third Sunday for the meal, plus an optional cultural day on the prior Saturday to harvest vegetables and prepare the animal. A full slate of half-day and full-day trips for potential clients is then offered. Co-op members believe it is important to create a consistent schedule to establish a new destination to stimulate the hotels to recommend the Truchas initiatives to their guests.


Local Wine and Beer Festival

New Mexico is the oldest wine-growing region in the US. There are a multitude of wineries and microbreweries, and there is a long land-grant tradition of making local fruit wines—e.g. chokecherry wine. HPDR’s Outdoor Services Cooperative, in conjunction with the Farmers’ Cooperative, is investigating growing organic hops and barley to create its own organic microbrew. “We think a local beer and wine festival, a matanza and a full slate of half- and full-day trips will be extremely appealing,” Córdova said.


Place-Based Alternate Reality and Truchas History Games

Another proposed activity would use existing game platforms to create an interactive place-based game. Actual historical events, photographs and documentation would be woven into an engaging game. Participants would arrive at the cooperative and download the Truchas Game App to their smart phones. Then, based on strategically placed QR codes, they would go through a series of tasks and rewards. Ultimately, a winner would emerge at the end of the day. “The flexibility of this activity makes it feasible and attractive,” says Córdova. “Games can be set up with a ‘Farmville’ theme, history theme or nature-based theme. This technology could also assist local guides in interpretive walks and will also allow self-guided tours loaded with historical and current information.”


We are in this for the long term,” Córdova said. “We know it will take time for all of this to work, but we are really committed to our success.”



Arturo Sandoval is the executive director of the Albuquerque-based Center of Southwest Culture. CODECE is the center’s rural economic development initiative. 505.247.2729,




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