A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days- Day #30- Garcia, Colorado and Costilla, New Mexico

Posted: April 30, 2020 in Colorado History, Colorado Road Trips, Ghost Towns, Mines, Mills and Smelters, Mining Camps
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The Final Day of A Ghost Town a Day feautures Garcia, Colorado and its sister-community Costilla, New Mexico


Garcia is the oldest permanent European settlement in Colorado. Originally called “Plaza de los Mananares” the spot was settled by Hispanic families from Taos County, New Mexico. Adobe plazas with thick, windowless walls protected the early settlers from raids by Ute warriors.



Located in the far southeast corner of the San Luis Valley just two miles north of the New Mexico border, Garcia was part of the once sprawling network of Rio de Costilla Valley settlements, which at their height in the mid-1800s numbered over 4,000 inhabitants. Today Garcia, and the sleepy village of Costilla across the border in New Mexico are home to roughly 475 people,  1/10th of the regions peak population, and very few of that 475 live in Garcia or Costilla proper, most reside on ranches and farms scattered in the hills nearby.



The histories of Garcia and Costilla are so intermingled that Costilla County, Colorado is named for Costilla, the village in New Mexico- Costilla once being part of Colorado Territory, until a surveying error was discovered in 1869, which gave Costilla back to New Mexico. When Costilla, which pre-dated Garcia by a few years, returned to New Mexico, Garcia became the oldest settlement in Colorado.



Today Garcia is a collection of homes, many abandoned adobes, and a few occupied. A stunningly beautiful church, and the remains of several adobe plazas. When traveling south out of Garcia, it is hard to tell where Garcia ends, and Costilla, New Mexico begins.







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  1. dominicsagar says:

    Great series Jeff. I have a bunch of new places to ride to this year.

  2. Carole says:

    Found this very interesting. My son and I are planning a trip to Garcia since we had family who lived there. Could you tell me how to get to the original plaza from the 159 (coming from Taos). Thank you, Carole.

    • J.D. Eberle says:

      Carole, Garcia is so tiny you can’t miss it once you turn off 159. Once you cross the NM/Colo border heading north you will see a tiny sign pointing to Garcia which is west of 159. Garcia is right off the highway, and is only about two streets wide. The older adobe buildings are just south of the little Blue and White Chapel. Enjoy your visit, it is a neat place!

  3. casiasr says:

    I also am planning a trip to Costilla NM and Garcia Co. I believe 2 of my great-great-grandparents lived in these areas, Garcia and Rael, I looked at google maps and see that there are 2 roads call Garcia rd and Rael rd on NM side, my GGgrandparents are named Jose Perfecto Garcia and Maria Rufina Garcia apparently he owned 15 acres also Jose Rafael Rael and Maria Micaela Rael they owned 13 acres in 1800 to 1700s in which they ranched animals, Do you know if there are Raels or Garcias familias still live in the area, in all this Iv been building a familia tree for probably about 15+ years or more, would be nice to continue my familia history by meeting some people, this is great. thanks for some history, Ralph Casias

    • RS says:

      The Garcia family moved to the Denver area or Taos from what I know. My grandmother was born in Garcia and she passed just a few weeks ago. My family goes down often.

  4. […] “Life…Death…Iron — Ghost Towns, Road Trips, and Obscure History,” Jeff D. Eberle blog dated April 20, 2020, at https://lifedeathiron.com/2020/04/30/a-ghost-town-a-day-for-30-days-day-30-garcia-colorado-and-costi…. […]

  5. BettyJo Costilla says:

    Thank you for this information. My mothers maiden name is Garcia which her ancestors originated in Northern NM. My father last name is Costilla whom as well has a history from Northern NM. I have always been drawn towards Northern NM and when reading the history I think it’s time to visit to see if my spirits connect with the land. If it is where I find my home I plan to buy as much land back so I can reclaim what was taken from us.

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