This past Saturday morning, Denver’s Community Planning and Development (CPD) held a Zoom meeting, and about 70 people were online.
The idea was to come up with information to bolster history, like how Latino and Chicano residents came to Denver and how they created their neighborhoods, and how they struggled for their rights and dignity. As Denver has changed dramatically, some places are fading away except for peoples’ memories.
A release from the city noted it “is launching a first-of-its-kind initiative to uncover and share the history and historic places of Denver’s Chicano and Latino communities.” To boil it down: a Latino/Chicano Historic Context Study. I could have listened for much more than just the 90-minute meeting. Even digging for information to learn about the people and places in Denver over the years, there could have been many more hours to learn about this type of project. (Other historic context projects will turn to other under-represented communities, including African Americans, Indigenous, and Asian Americans.)
The program was moderated by senior city planner Jennifer Buddenborg, who is a member of Denver’s Landmark Preservation staff. The idea was to build a “more inclusive list of designated landmarks and historic districts and inform the citywide building survey, Discover Denver,” according to the release. Denver’s Chief Storyteller Rowena Alegria was online, and so was Nicki Gonzales, a history professor at Regis University. Alegria noted that capturing oral histories was “like saving landmarks.”
The funding for this project comes from Community Planning and Development, and the offices of two Denver City Council Representatives: Amanda Sandoval from District 1, and Jamie Torres from District 3. Both spoke about the sacred spaces that were important for them, whether a church or a park that was part of growing up. Support also comes from History Colorado’s State Historical Fund, and the Peter Grant Preservation Services Fund for Colorado of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Kicking off the meeting, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock mentioned “saving our history.” I found that somewhat ironic, since several neighborhoods on the west and north sides have changed dramatically as developers have found a place to scrape and build, while long-time residents have moved out.
Still, it is a start to capture information that can tell stories to keep forever. A YouTube tape from Saturday’s meeting has a link below, although it does not capture the dozens of suggestions from those who were online in the chat and Q/A functions. In the future, a historic cultural district is being proposed for La Alma Lincoln Park, among one of the oldest neighborhoods in Denver. Also, there are other links about the context study, Historic Denver, and stories on 9News, Denverite and Al Día News.