By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media, See photo gallery below…
What a wonderful evening… Everyone, it seemed, had a story to tell at the “El Movimiento, The Chicano Movement in Colorado” exhibit at the Colorado History Museum Friday night. Hundreds turned out to reminisce and to find old friends from way back when. For many it was like a Chicano Movement reunion for others it was a learning experience. Many young people in attendance were able to see and read about what a generation or two before them had done to open doors of opportunity for so many. Shouts of “Viva la Raza!” & “Si Se Puede” could be heard throughout the large hall while the La Familia Coca sang “De Colores” and Yo Soy Chicano”.
Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, Councilman Paul Lopez, Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher & several other prominent politicians, educators and community who’s who where there for an evening of remembrance, education and fun. Many wore shirts symbolizing the Chicano movement era of the 60’s & 70’s. Attendees were able to make buttons that were worn by many during that time.
The exhibit itself contains a variety of memorabilia including references to UMAS (United Mexican American Students) MECHA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), Los Seis de Boulder (six CU Boulder law students that were killed in two separate and controversial bombing incidents in a 48 hour period) as well as the police confrontation at the Crusade for Justice in Denver that left Luis Jr. Martinez dead and the crusade building destroyed. The farmworkers struggle, Coors boycott, Vietnam and several other symbols and stories of Chicano Movement are represented as well.
Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center in Washington D.C., was a featured speaker at the event. The Latino Center works to increase and enhance Latino presence, research and scholarship at the Smithsonian Institution by sponsoring, developing and promoting exhibitions, collections, research and public programs that focus on the Latino experience. Díaz is an advisor to the Smithsonian’s Secretary and Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture as well as to Congress and other government agencies on a range of cultural development issues related to Latino communities in the United States and their impact on diverse countries of origin.
Diaz told the crowd, “It is a very important first step that the state of Colorado has made, with this exhibit, in consecrating a very important aspect of the history of the state of Colorado that for far too many years has been ignored, misconstrued or forgotten.”
Speaking to the capacity audience Lt. Governor Joe Garcia said, “Rudolfo Corky Gonzales, Cesar Chavez, Jose Angel Gutierrez, Reies Lopez Tijerina and others inspired many of us but struck fear in the minds of others. Many Americans viewed them as they did Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, as radical activists, and they were that, but they were activists for social justice and ultimately activists for peace.”
The Lt. Governor went on to say that the history of the Chicano movement is important to the history of Colorado and that the movement is still alive today only in different forms.”El Movimiento is not just something for the history books but something we should use to evaluate how we look at the world today. We need to make sure that young people understand why it is important to remember and learn from that era. That those who are marching in the streets today protesting police/citizen conflicts and stating that brown and black lives matter learn from those who come before them.” he said.
“Some of our past leaders have passed and many of us have gotten older but we still have those passions for justice and equality that were forged during those years and we want to make sure we pass on those passions to those young people that will shape our city and state for years to come.” We need to do everything we can to keep not just the memories of those past leaders alive but their values they fought for. Latinos have long been an important part in building Colorado and we are going to be Colorado’s future. The growing demographic of Hispanic/Latino young people will be the future workforce and leaders of Colorado, so we need to make sure we do everything we can to prepare them for that future.” said the Lt. Governor who is also the Executive Director of Higher Education for the state of Colorado.
For more upcoming events and information on” El Movimiento, The Chicano Movement in Colorado” visit:
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media