Josephine Lobato is many things teacher, historian, accomplished folk artist and grandmother but at heart, she's a storyteller.
She was born in Colorado's San Luis Valley in the 1940s, into a culture rooted in tradition. During her early childhood, the valley was "a forgotten corner" of Colorado.
"It was a place where people lived in isolation, so it became a place where all the traditions were kept," says Lobato.
These ways continued in the largely Hispanic community until men returned from World War II having seen the world. They brought new ways of life into the valley, and over time, old customs began to fade.
So in the 1980s, using her memories, research and imagination, Lobato began to create large colchas, or coverlets, embroidered with intricately detailed scenes of her community's celebrations, holiday traditions, rites of passage, political conflicts, folktales and spiritual heritage.
"The people had so many wonderful stories, I worried they would get lost," says Lobato. "This is a legacy."
Like the stories she stitches, colcha embroidery itself had been in danger of being forgotten. Before revitalization in the 1970s and '80s, local women no longer practiced the art form that had been used since colonial days.
Lobato has completed about 30 pieces and teaches colcha embroidery to others, including her grandchildren.
In celebration of Women's History Month, Lobato is being honored with a retrospective of her work at UCCS. She said she hopes that those who attend the exhibit "will get a little view of the valley and its people ... and of stories and ideas that maybe they never knew existed."
Miracles and Memories by Josephine Lobato
UCCS University Center, Lower Level, 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.
Opening reception Thursday, March 1, 5-8 p.m.; exhibition runs through March 31.
Free; call 262-3865 for more.
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