Aritcle & Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery below)
Chicano pride filled the room September 27th at the Colorado History Museum as long time Chicano activists, supporters and leaders from throughout Colorado came together to celebrate the installation of the “El Moviemiento” (The Movement) as a permanent and core exhibit at the museum.
Speaking to the standing room only crowd, former Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Garcia said, “It is fitting that this exhibit is now part of the History Colorado Museum because, although we think of the Chicano Movement as a product of the sixties and early seventies, it was not a short lived movement but rather something that still exists. It is not over, we cannot let it be over.
The issues we on which the movement focused on in the sixties and seventies were not resolved although awareness was raised and progress was made. This exhibit not only recognizes our struggles but our contributions. After all we helped build this state. We are Colorado’s past but we are also its future. Our struggles are not over, we must continue the fight that is the focus of this exhibit. Our political power has undoubtedly grown but our children are still most likely to live in poverty, less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to attend and graduate from college and more likely to be incarcerated.”
Garcia added, “The trajectory of my entire life was changed and impacted by the things that happened with ”El Moviemiento” and I know the same is true for many of you here in this room. Garcia reminded the audience of the roots of the Chicano Movement beginning in 1962 with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in California fighting for farmworkers rights to the land rights movement of Reies Lopez Tejerina of New Mexico to the creation of the Crusade for Justice founded by Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales in Denver in 1966.
Garcia talked about the high school student led walkouts in Denver when students raised their voices to demand bilingual –bicultural education, non-racist teaches, fair administrations and non-segregated schools. He mentioned those who were martyred for the causes of the Chicano Movement including Ricardo Falcon of Boulder, who was murdered in New Mexico in 1972 on his way to a La Raza Unida political convention in Texas. Luis Jr. Martinez, a 20 year old, who was killed when Denver police and Federal Law Enforcement attacked the Crusade for Justice Headquarters at 16th & Downing St. and Los Sies De Boulder who were killed in May of 1974 in two separate bombing incidents. Our history was one of injustice, inequality, discrimination and limited opportunity followed by struggle and more struggle then tragedy and more tragedy.”
Garcia also talked about the support of organizations like UMAS, (United Mexican American Students) and M.E.Ch.A. (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) and how they helped students feel like the belonged in higher education which led to the next generation of leaders like Polly Baca, Rich Castro, Federico Pena, Ken & John Salazar, Romona Martinez, Rueben Valdez and many others including the current Colorado Speaker of the House, Crisanta Duran.
Garcia concluded, “Look to our young people who want to learn about what happened in the sixties and seventies and help them to be the leaders of tomorrow. Si Se Puede,” Garcia chanted and the audience quickly joined in.
Other speakers, including Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez of West Denver, echoed similar sentiments. Lopez talked about telling his mother about his first Chicano Studies class at Metro State only to have her respond. “What you’re paying money to learn how to be Mexican?” “My first reaction was no but after thinking about it I realized that she was right. We were stripped of who we are to the point where we forget who we are, we fear and are embarrassed of who we are,” said Lopez. The “Moviemiento helped rekindle that identity and what it means to be Chicano.” Said Lopez.
“To be Chicano is to struggle and that is not something of the past but serves to remind us who we are and inspire of us in times just like this. Our fellow Latinos, right now in this city, who are putting up the drywall, installing the plumbing, the iron worker hanging by a thread all helping to build those buildings going up all around us are having their humanity stripped from them. That’s our gente, he told the crowd and that treatment and this exhibit is a call to action. The exhibit is a guide on how to get it done. That call to action does not happen on Facebook or Twitter but in the streets, in the classrooms and dammit in city hall as well he said adding, “but we have to show up, we cannot ignore an injustice. You have to stand up even if you are the only one,” said Lopez.
Emanuel Martinez, A legendary Denver Chicano artist/muralist, presented the museum with a unique Mestizo work that represents what it means to be Chicano.
The program concluded with a poem titled “It’s Time To March” written and read by Dr. Ramon Del Castillo. (Read the poem HERE) followed by a reception featuring songs by Yolanda Ortega & Debbie Gallegos and music by Jon Romero y Amancer
Then it was off to see the exhibit everyone was talking about. Seemed like everyone was sharing stories of back in the day, remembering this incident and that march or that organization. “That’s my car” said one visitor pointing to a vehicle that had been crushed by falling bricks during the attack on the Crusade for Justice Building. “They did not let me have it back for two weeks” she said. Another women said she was disappointed about the lack of Latina representation at the exhibit. “Where are all the Chicanas and our contributions to the movement? Where is HEMBRA? I don’t see them anywhere”
El Moviemiento is sponsored by the Albarca Family & AARP. The Colorado History Museum is located at 12th and Broadway and is open 10am to 5pm daily. Adult $12, Senior $10 (65 and older) Student $10 (ages 13–22 with student ID) Child $8 (ages 6–12) Child (5 and under) FREE, Members FREE
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media. Event Photography 720-855-8410