Under a beautiful evening sky at the Auraria Casa Mayan on the campus of Metropolitan State University, dozens of supporters and well wishers came out to celebrate the accomplishments of Chicano musical director, songwriter, educator and youth activist Ervin M. Lucero. His life work reflects the experiences of people of Latina/o ancestry through the preservation of traditional and contemporary cultural and musical forms. His commitment to human and civil rights tells the stories of impacted populations who continue to struggle in American society.
Lucero’s band The Mood Express has opened for such celebrities as Gloria Estefan, the late Tito Puente and WAR. He has performed at national conferences as varied as National REFORMA, the National Conference of Black Mayors, the American GI Forum, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Libertarian Party, National Association of Bilingual Educators and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).
Lucero has coordinated entertainment for several national conferences including the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (2004), Search Institute (1999), and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (1995) and was a guest artist in 1997 at the International Worship Institute Choir where he performed with Martha Munizzi and Tommy Walker. He was a 1997 guest artist at the Tejano Music Awards and also performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the legendary Robert Shaw at Mackie Auditorium in Boulder, Colorado. Recently he was inducted into the 2014 Colorado Chicano Music Hall of Fame by Su Teatro Cultural Arts Center.
About Richard T. Castro
Richard T. Castro (1946-1991), educational and civil rights activist, was one of Colorado’s true champions of disenfranchised communities. From a young street social worker in the early 1970s to executive director of Denver’s civil rights agency, Castro was known as a fighter for human justice and dignity. At 25, Castro became one of the youngest lawmakers ever elected to the House of Representatives, a post he held for five terms. Castro led many struggles for social justice, including opposition to English-only legislation. He was a leading spokesperson in the debate on Mexican immigration. A bust commemorating Castro, sculpted by noted Denver artist Emanuel Martinez, sits in the rotunda of the state capitol.
The Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professorship was initiated in 1997 to foster multiculturalism, diversity and academic excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The professorship brings renowned Latina and Latino scholars, artists and leaders of distinction to MSU Denver to conduct classes, seminars, performances and lectures for students, faculty and the larger Denver community.
An Activist at MSU Denver, Castro was an early instructor in what would become the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at MSU Denver. He was an outspoken leader on the importance of education to meet the needs of a culturally diverse population.
A Denver native, Castro received his bachelor’s degree from MSU Denver and his master’s degree in community organization from the University of Denver. While working his way through DU, he taught part-time at MSU Denver and was a youth counselor. He was a student activist with such organizations as the Displaced Aurarians and the United Farm Workers. During that time, Castro was arrested after intervening when police allegedly beat a Latino youth. The incident sparked an intense awareness of relations between the police and the Latino population. Throughout this incident and others like it, Castro advocated change through education and politics, rather than violence.
Castro once said, “Education’s role in our society cannot be minimized…It is quite probably the most critical investment a people can make.”
The Richard T. Castro Professorship illustrates how MSU Denver continues to build on its multicultural heritage and commitment to diversity. MSU Denver enrolls the highest number of students of color of all the four-year colleges and universities in the state.
The University has set a goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, with 25 percent of its enrollment Hispanic. MSU Denver’s leadership team mirrors the diversity of the Denver community and the University is on its way to meeting its goal of recruiting more minority faculty and staff.
Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver