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Ernesto Vigil papers

Identifier: COU:1639

Scope and Contents

Ernesto Vigil’s entire collection is divided between the archives of University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, Denver Public Library and New Mexico State Records and Archives. The materials in the Archives consist of documents and research used to write The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent, Mr. Vigil’s first book. Other unrelated material is extant in the collection, such as records of students of Mr. Vigil’s, hate mail, etc. The precise organization of the collection is as follows:

I. PUBLICATION FILES: The publications category comprises most of the Vigil Collection, with a number of Latino/Latina newspaper volumes, including a very comprehensive collection of El Gallo, some of which Mr. Vigil has been written in.

II. PERSONAL FILES: A small category within the whole of the collection consisting of essays from past students of Mr. Vigil. These essays are written about a range of issues concerning the Chicano/Chicana community. In addition, a few pieces of hate mail, and a poem dedicated to the deceased Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales.

III. COURT EXHIBITS: Smaller in scale than the personal files category, this particular category accommodates 5 court exhibits found within the collection.

IV. INFORMATION FILES: The information category consists of a number of documents used by Mr. Vigil as source information for his book. These documents are not publications file, but documents elaborating various organizations such as La Raza, Crusade for Justice, L.A.R.A.S.A., and a number of other documents with the Latino/Latina Chicano/Chicana experience being the central aspect.

V. OVERSIZED FILES: The oversized category consists entirely of primary sources that were used by Mr. Vigil to write his book. These books range in subject from collections of interpretive essays, Mexican folklore, Latin America policy in America, and so forth. In addition, an extensive collection of El Gallo newspapers and other various Chicano/Chicana pertaining to the struggle.

Ernesto Vigil has donated personal archives to the Western History and Genealogy Department and the stacks at Denver Public Library and presently in the process of preparing to donate the Vigil family archives to the New Mexico State Records and Archives office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Vigil Family materials total over 700 individual items and span the family's history from 1772 to the Great Depression.


  • Creation: 1948 - 2001

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Biographical Note

Ernesto B. Vigil is a Denver native who was born in the family residence on January 16, 1948, in the Elyria neighborhood of Northeast Denver. He was one of eleven siblings from his father's, Rolando Martinez Vigil, two marriages, his mother, Sylvia Cosio, being his second wife and thirty years younger than his father.

Ernesto Vigil is of the first generation of this Vigil family to be raised with English as his first language and outside of New Mexico. He was educated in Denver Public Schools, attending Elyria Elementary School, Cole Junior High School, and graduating from Manual High School in 1966. He received scholarships and grants to attend Goddard College in Palinfield, Vermont, but withdrew in his third semester to return to Denver, Colorado. In 1970 Mr. Vigil participated in an experimental BA program known as the Tlatelolco Field Studies Program, which was sponsored by Goddard College and a Denver private alternative school known as Escuela Tlatelolco, and accumulated sufficient BA credits in the early 1970s.

Escuela Tlatelolco was founded in 1970 by the Crusade for Justice, Inc., a community-based working-class activist organization incorporated in Denver in 1966 by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales. Mr. Vigil taught history and social studies classes at Escuela Tlatelolco's high school from 1970 to 1981, and taught basic skills courses at Community College of Denver from 1994 to 1997, having sporadically been employed as a part-time adjunct professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Vigil departed from Goddard College in his third semester in November 1967 having decided to return to Denver to become involved in community organizing, joining the Crusade for Justice in February 1968. By this time Ernesto Vigil had participated in the massive anti-war march on the Pentagon in the fall of 1967 and in 1968 was drafted to military service, but refused induction into the armed services on two occasions because of his passionate opposition to the war in Vietnam. Upon doing so he was briefly imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, on charges stemming from the government's second attempt to send me to Vietnam.

Ernesto Vigil joined the Crusade for Justice due to the group's community organizing and advocacy for people of Mexican dissent, but also because of the organizations pioneering opposition to the Vietnam War at a time when opposition to the war was not widespread.

He was a member of the Crusade for Justice from 1968 to 1981, resigning from the organization about two years before its effective dissolution. During those thirteen years, Mr. Vigil was a member of its board of directors for the entire duration and served as the group's vice-chairman from 1975 to 1981.

Additionally, he was a writer, editor, and assistant editor for El Gallo, the organization's newspaper, served as a director for its legal defense committee and numerous ad hoc groups, and served as a liaison of the Crusade organization to numerous allied groups.

In addition to the numerous jobs he has held with Denver-area nonprofit organizations, he has frequently been employed as a paralegal in criminal law, personal injury, and immigration law practices. At present he is employed as a researcher and investigator for various private investigation and law firms.

Mr. Vigil’s father was born in 1884 at Talpa, New Mexico, near Ranchos de Taos, and his mother was born in 1914 at Channing, Texas, after her maternal grandparents moved from Northeastern New Mexico to work on a cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Sylvia Cosio’s parents were Carolina Valdez, born in Mora, New Mexico, and Pedro Cosio, an orphan from Ciudad Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. They had moved from Channing, Texas, to the Mora valley where Sylvia Cosio was raised before moving to Denver in the mid-1940s.

Rolando Martinez Vigil and Sylvia Cosio’s first language was Spanish, with Rolando Vigil learning English when he was over thirty, moving to Denver in 1919. Sylvia Cosio learned English at a Catholic school in Mora, New Mexico. She is credited by Ernesto Vigil for instilling him with the skills needed for success in school, namely her instruction in reading and writing before he entered public school. However, it was much later that he came to see that his father’s role, as he was phenomenally well-informed about his family history and New Mexico folklore, with the stories he told Ernesto Vigil having served as an inspiration in learning this history.

The Vigil surname is now very widespread in the states of New Mexico and Colorado, with a branch of the Vigil family and descendants being centered in the Rio Chiquito, Talpa, and Ranchos de Taos area of northern New Mexico.

Vigil derives from Francisco Montes Vigil who arrived with his family in New Mexico in 1695 from present-day Zacatecas, Mexico, having been recruited in Zacatecas to take part in the "re-conquest" of New Mexico by Diego de Vargas after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Many people with the Vigil surname played prominent roles thereafter in New Mexico history.

The progenitor of this branch of the extended Vigil family was Jose Mariano Vigil, born in 1808 in Santa Cruz de la Canada, New Mexico. Jose Mariano Vigil moved in the 1820s to the community of “San Francisco del Rio de Las Trampas,” (“Saint Francis of the River of the Traps”, the area of current-day Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico) where he married Juana Maria Romero, a woman of native descent whose family had received title to the De la Serna Land Grant in the early-1700s.

Ernesto Vigil’s father's maternal grandmother, Juanita Montoya de Martinez, was a witness to the January 1847 Taos rebellion in which the Mexican and Mexican Indian communities rose against the U.S. Army's occupation of New Mexico and executed Governor Charles Bent, New Mexico's first American territorial governor.

Juanita Montoya de Martinez was the granddaughter of Pablo Montoya, one of the two main leaders of this rebellion, the chief leader being Tomasito Romero, the “cacique” (war chief) of the Taos Pueblo. Romero was captured and killed while in custody of the U. S. Army, and Pablo Montoya was captured one day after the rebellion was crushed at the Taos Pueblo in early-February 1847. He was given a drumhead court martial and executed by hanging in the Taos plaza one day after his trial.

This history and lore remained in his father's memory well into his ‘90s, and Ernesto Vigil began to learn this history from him when at the tender age of 20 years old in 1968. Rolando Vigil’s recollections provided him with the framework for understanding his family history, a history closely linked to the states of both New Mexico and Colorado.

In 1989 Mr. Vigil was awarded the research fellowship at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Center for the Studies of Race and Ethnicities in America (CSERA), the research center that was sort of the forerunner of the C. U. Ethnic Studies Department, with the research manuscript on the Crusade for Justice being published subsequently by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1999.

Private parties offered funds to Ernesto Vigil to write a history of the Crusade for Justice Organization of Denver, of which he was a member of for 13 years. Reluctant to take the money directly from these parties, Professor Estevan Flores of CSERA suggested the money to be given to CSERA with the purpose of funding a research fellowship.

Mr. Vigil was not keen on the idea of the organization enticing him with funds in order to control his research or how the data was interpreted, so he suggested that C.U.’s CSERA to be the conduit for the fellowship.


21 linear feet (35 boxes)

Language of Materials



Ernesto B. Vigil (1948-), a Chicano Movement activist and educator in Denver, is a historian of the Chicano Movement in Colorado. His collection consist of Chicano newsletters, newspapers, books, articles and essays related to his research on Chicano experience, specifically in Denver, Colorado.


This collection is arranged into the following series:


Processed by: James A. Thompkins, Jr. Completed: June 20, 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States