Variation and Maintenance of Spanish in Colorado: The Case of Fort Lupton

Pamela Alvarado

State University of New York at Albany


Spanish has long been a part of the history of Colorado and the Southwestern United States. However, in recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the Hispanic population. In Colorado, for example, there has been an increase in Hispanic immigration, not only in Denver, but also north of Denver to include cities like Greeley and Fort Collins. Right between Greeley and Denver is Fort Lupton, a small town of 7,000 people. With over half of its population identifying itself as Hispanic, Fort Lupton provides a case study of linguistic variation not only from standard Spanish but also from the variety of Spanish spoken in the San Luis Valley (Southern Colorado) and in New Mexico.

This investigation focuses on finding out if the Spanish spoken in Fort Lupton is an extension of the Spanish spoken in New Mexico and identifying sociolinguistic aspects that condition its use. Research was done through a survey given to Spanish speakers in Fort Lupton, as well as participant observations I have made during the years I have lived in the area. Results show that the Spanish spoken in Colorado is not an extension of New Mexican Spanish, although it shares some of its features. Examples include the articulation represented by -ll-, as /j/ and the weakening of /x/ in addition to the deaffrication of /tʃ/. At the morphosyntactic level, there is a reduction in the use of the subjunctive mode. Among the Spanish speakers who were born in the US, those who were attracted to Mexican culture –music, clothing, culture– were more likely to retain and use Spanish more often. This suggests that the prevalence of Hispanic culture shown by the growth of Spanish-speaking media will have an impact on the retention and loyalty of Spanish in Fort Lupton and Northern Colorado at least in the near future.