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Community pulls together to fund Golondrinas repairs

December 30, 2018

Daniel Goodman, museum director at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, still remembers the scene.

La Cienega Creek was 20 feet higher than normal. Huge cottonwood logs were everywhere, creating a large blockage that kept water from a historic acequia that functions as an irrigation system for the valley downstream. Fences were torn down. Performance areas and fields were flooded. The dirt road was washed out and covered with silt.

Even a foot bridge washed away.

“I was relieved that the damage wasn’t worse,” Goodman said. “No people or animals were hurt, and no buildings were damaged. But there was a very real concern about keeping the museum open.”

Sean Paloheimo, assistant museum director and director of operations, went to survey the damage the next morning and found it was much worse than he expected.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Paloheimo, who has worked at Las Golondrinas full time for 16 years. “The amount of destruction was just incredible.”

Fast-forward about six months.

The 200-plus-acre living history museum in La Cienega is back on its feet, which Goodman says is in large part due to the financial help it received from the community for repairs.

Goodman, in his second year as the museum’s director, said Las Golondrinas raised $18,122 within a few weeks, allowing it to reopen.

“The community was really amazing,” Goodman said. “I didn’t know what to expect, and then checks started coming in with donations.”

In some ways, Goodman noted, it might have been a way for supporters to give back to the living history museum, a nonprofit that provides guided tours, interactive educational classes for kids and several annual family festivals that immerse visitors in the vibrant colonial lifestyle of the Camino Real in the 1700s.

“What makes Las Golondrinas so special,” said Goodman, “is that you come to a living history museum like Golondrinas not only to see the real thing but to also experience the real thing. We work hard to create immersive learning environments that make people feel like they have stepped back in time, to engage the senses and get our guests hands-on with history.”

Las Golondrinas also donates a few thousand pounds of traditionally farmed crops to a food bank each year.

With the donated funds, Las Golondrinas was able to hire a company to remove the logjam. Once the acequia was running again, the crops revived. Goodman happily reported that the usual amount was donated to the food bank this year.

Las Golondrinas closed for a week so that a new footbridge and road could be built, but otherwise the season’s programming continued as usual.

In the past months, Paloheimo’s crew has put in hundreds of hours rebuilding fences for livestock and clearing out and restoring performance areas and fields.

“We have some more work to do to get the museum back to where it was aesthetically, but some of that will happen over time as the willows and other plants grow back. As far as functionality, we’re 100 percent,” said Paloheimo.

Of the generously donated funds, $1,827 remains and has been put in an emergency account, in case of another unexpected disaster.

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