The Fabled Pueblo ‘Precipice’

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Few know where it’s at, yet so many know it’s coming. It’s located somewhere between the next corner and the day when a yet unknown number of visitors discover Pueblo.

It’s a place that sits right at the edge of all of Pueblo, even as far out as the county. It’s a topic of conversation and optimism. 

“The Precipice” is a completely Pueblo idea: one that is revered and discussed as much as the Bell Game, Pueblo Chile and the good ol’ days.

The Precipice is the idea that a new golden era of Pueblo is right around the corner – that the growth seen in other cities throughout Colorado will soon find its way here to Pueblo. 

You hear it everywhere: “If only a few more people discovered Pueblo – we’re right on the precipice.” But an actual figure of the number of people needed to discover Pueblo is always unknown. Is it 50 or 50k? Maybe it’s not about numbers, but whether the right people know the whereabouts of Pueblo – then will the elusive precipice at last reveal itself? 

So many will say, “Pueblo is on the precipice of something big.” But where it’s located and how to get there, however, is a thing of local legend. 

The Precipice has been so ingrained in the Pueblo narrative ever since the fall of “The Mill” that it’s reached near religious status about a “second coming of Pueblo.” Before growth hit Colorado Springs and Northern Colorado thus overshadowing Pueblo, The Precipice was simply a longing to return to the good old days, not about catching up to anyone. 

But the world has become smaller and so the legend of The Precipice has had to adapt along with it. From chasing a return to industrial Pueblo with quaint homes and manicured lawns, a county defined by prep football, and an Americana city with parades, the most bars, and old buildings to ride out life until retirement – The Precipice we know today has emerged as a sort of diversion tactic now that Pueblo can no longer ignore the growth seen up north and continue to justify the overall stagnancy of Pueblo in the same way. 

A return to an industrial Pueblo is no longer seen as ideal. The Colorado boutique culture is wanted. Small mom-and-pop shops are favored over large chains, small businesses over big brand names. A Pueblo with unique experiences – not just a place to wander around at “The Mall”, eat at a chain restaurant and coast into Monday.

The Precipice is changing because as Pueblo ages, for some, the Precipice is no longer theirs to realize. And they know it. The tightly-knit Pueblo community where everybody knows your cousin is losing its cohesion. This scares many who love to perpetuate their own mediocrity because in Pueblo’s mediocrity their own can be hidden.

But one thing that is certain when the precipice comes — jobs will be had by all, yards will be weedless, art will be on every corner and all children will be given coding classes and chile wraps from the schools. At least that’s what legend of “The Precipice” foretells.

While few know how to bring back the golden age of Pueblo, The Precipice speaks to the chip-on-the-shoulder frustration of a populous that knows good times are within reach, but remain out of reach for unknown reasons.

The Precipice is a kind of coloring of old black and white photographs, the ones of young Puebloans of the Kennedy-era when anything was possible. To know those same Puebloans is to understand that the Pueblo of today offers even less than the optimism seen in those black and white photographs.

Where one generation left Main Street for the Pueblo Mall, this new precipice wants its return. Where one generation thought all schools were the same and school pride means saving football traditions, the “Precipice” is about returning to the importance of quality education at the cost of tradition. 

Where the Steel City dominated the West, another generation wants to reinvent the Pueblo brand. 

Talking about The Precipice is important because it gives Puebloans a sense that their time is arriving, but in a way it also excuses many from having to take action about it. If Pueblo is right on the precipice, then it’s someone else’s job to give Pueblo the push it needs to make the jump.

The reality of The Precipice is that Pueblo faces two cliffs: one from a crumbling middle-class four decades running that has thus far defined Pueblo, and the other – the future of this new golden era. As each year passes, good footing is harder to find for many, as large swaths of Pueblo are viewed as “unlivable” – the reputation of some of our neighborhoods causing Colorado to perceive Pueblo often through racist and prejudicial lenses.

The Precipice isn’t comfortable and it shouldn’t be. It’s hope that something better is coming. The belief that various booms seen across Colorado is just around the corner, here. But in a way, both are a deflection from the reality that the “real” precipice isn’t like some Halloween legend where hope – the midnight rider with a Shuster’s pumpkin cookie for a face – rides into town to save the day. 

The Precipice is about the people of Pueblo finally taking the plunge over its edge and putting action to words in order to realize the community Puebloans envision.

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