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Compliments of the Steel City 

Long Story Short

Recently, I took a daytrip to Pueblo, making my first stop the El Pueblo History Museum. There, I marveled at a one-ton cross-section of Old Monarch, a cottonwood with a 30-foot circumference that grew from the middle of Union Avenue for nearly 400 years before being cut down (sparking plenty of controversy) in 1883. I also saw the sword and scabbard of Zeb Pike, and read of the city's former nicknames from its steel days: Pittsburgh of the West, and Smelting Capital of the World.

Walking out, I happened upon a man strumming a flamenco guitar in the lobby. Roberto Martinez, who often practices in this acoustically blessed environment, was on his way to meet a potential buyer for the rosewood-and-cedar guitar he was playing. He stopped there to contemplate the transaction, and to riff a little.

After inviting me to sit beside him, he critiqued the guitar — the strings were old, but the sound was still good — then played me a song called "Compliments of the Princess," which was almost as graceful to watch as it was to hear.

That turned out to be just one of many semi-magical events I encountered that day in Pueblo. Long derided by northerners as simply that place downstream, Pueblo is busy raising its artistic profile. And what's happening in that realm, coupled with other revitalization efforts, could help this city make a little history again. Our story on the topic begins here.

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