Lupe Sanchez, born in the little mining hamlet of Sopris, is the oldest known resident on
record from the submerged community five miles west of Trinidad. She was born there
on June 18, 1920, and, in just a few months, will reach the remarkable age of 100. This
remarkable woman can claim a long and happy life as wife, mother, grandmother and
great-grandmother, and it's all well-deserved.
"My mother was Lucia, and my father was Ezekiel Trujillo," she said in a recent
interview for the Chronicle News, "and mother was originally from Wagon Mound, New
Mexico. Ezekiel was raised in Grey Creek, a small settlement just east of Trinidad" But
Lupe's first connection to Sopris was through her grandparents, Marie and Sevieno
Trujillo. "Sevieno worked in the coke ovens in Sopris for many years," she said, "and
my father worked in the Valdez and Allen Mines up the river."
Lupe's brothers were Joe and Jim. Sisters are Alice, Carmella, Clara, and Bernice. She
attended St. Thomas Elementary School right next to the Catholic Church, and following
the completion of her studies at St. Thomas, she continued her studies at Lincoln High
School in Sopris for another year.
Lupe noted that she dearly misses her close friends from Sopris, specifically Rose
Vecellio, Josephine Montero, and Ann Risley. "We talked or saw each other every
week," she mused. "I remember fondly how everyone got along. One of my favorite
memories of my old home was of the grape truck that came to Sopris every week loaded
with the juicy grapes that were harvested every fall."
Her entire life has revolved around the coal mining industry, like the majority of residents
of the little settlement that was perched on the lip of the Purgatoire River. Sopris at one
time boasted three grocery stores and five taverns, and even a Catholic Church to cater to
the various needs ofthe ethnic population ofItalian, Spanish, Slav, and other diverse
As a young woman, Lupe met the love of her life at a dance at Ringo's Hall in Valdez.
She was smitten by one Mr. Zeke Sanchez on that dance night. The evolving couple had
a long courtship that was interrupted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' formal entry into the conflict
with Roosevelt's declaration of war to congress the following day.
Zeke, like tens of thousands of eager and angry young Americans, signed up to join the
fight. "We kept in touch by letters and phone calls," said Lupe. "We saw each other
only once in those four years of wartime. Zeke managed to get a furlough and we were
married in 1945." The couple sired four sons in a 26 year marriage: Tom, Steve, Joseph,
George, and Michael.
Lupe still had a single regret about having to be relocated in Trinidad because of the
federal government's decree for the construction of the Trinidad Dam. As expected,
many residents of the minute mining camp were devastated. The mandate for them to
leave their homes, some of whom had resided in them for over three generations, was
heart wrenching. There was no recourse. It was pack up and go, or get bulldozed into
the river! The Law of Imminent domain was conclusive, and after it was all said and
done, according to the federal administrators, it was all in the name of progress. There
was no negotiating with the feds.
The communities eldest known resident expressed her emphatic opinion on the subject of
vacating her beloved home; "I'm going to tell you," concluded Lupe, "at least they
should have named it the Sopris Dam!"