Erinea “Nea” Garcia Gallegos’ roots in Colorado ran deep. Ancestors of both her parents were among the earliest Spanish-speaking settlers, establishing farms and towns on Mexican land grants in southern Colorado and New Mexico. Her grandfather and father served among Colorado’s earliest territorial and state legislators. She was born in Conejos, Colorado, and lived and worked in the San Luis Valley her entire life. Gallegos served as an educator for 12 years and as postmistress in San Luis from 1934 to 1973.
Gallegos’ early life revolved around family, church, and school in the small town of Conejos. At age 14, she attended Loretto Academy for Girls in Pueblo until the devastating Pueblo Flood of 1921 closed the school. She graduated from Antonito High School with just eight classmates. She studied at Adams State College, Western State, and the University of Utah, and was one of Colorado’s first Hispanic women to go to college. With teaching degrees in hand, Gallegos became an elementary school teacher and later principal in Conejos, San Luis, and other nearby communities.
Gallegos gave up teaching soon after she married Maclovio Gallegos of San Luis in 1932 and began raising her family, eventually to include seven children. She was appointed postmistress in San Luis by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, juggling family life with her official duties. A few years later, the family moved into the historic Gallegos house on Main Street, next door to the post office building, which they also owned. Helping patrons prepare money orders and write and translate letters were Gallegos’ specialties, especially during World War II and later conflicts when many local men served overseas. She headed the San Luis post office for 39 years, until her retirement, at which time her daughter took over the post.
Gallegos’ legacy was her firm belief in the power of education, exemplified by her simple motto “The more you learn, the more you want to learn.” The family has honored this legacy through a scholarship fund at Adams State College named for Erinea and Maclovio Gallegos. Six of their children and all of their grandchildren graduated from college, many earning advanced degrees.
Garcia Gallegos article in La Voz Colorado Sowing the Seeds of Education