By Joe Contreras, Photos by Miguel Baca Barragan, Latin Life Denver Media
“Viva la Diva” is all grown up as the annual event turned 18 this year with an incredible party that brought out nearly two hundred women and men to the Bonacquisti Winery in North Denver. They were there to to help celebrate the annual event that has become the party for those wanting to support women’s rights and the organization that represents many of them.
COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights ) produced the Back to the Future Theme of Empowering and Embracing Sex, Sexuality, & a Sisterhood of Latinas moving forward. COLOR seeks to raise awareness for reproductive health, rights and justice. Guests showed up in a variety of costumes representing the evening’s theme.
Victoria Gomez Betancourt Communications and Development Director at COLOR told Latin Life Denver Radio that the reason for the back to future theme is the ongoing political nonsense that tries to create barriers and undo women’s rights and freedoms. Well, at COLOR we say: “Nuff! We are not turning back the clock on Latinas and our familias, we are going Back to the Future. Gomez-Betancourt is a Latina immigrant who is also a reproductive justice advocate and an abortion positive activist. Betancourt also told Latin Life Denver she was pleased with the turnout and the event. “I am just so happy to see so many people who support what we do”. She said it is because of that support the COLOR is able to mean so much to so many women.
The event was MC’d by Gianella Millan who is a youth activist and a graduate of COLOR’s youth leadership program LIPS, Latinas Increasing Political Strength. At 16, Gianella is among the youngest COLORistas. She is active in the reproductive justice movement and used to speaking with state and federal legislators and at press conferences on issues impacting Colorado Latinas and their families.
MORE ABOUT COLOR: From the Latin Life Denver Radio Show…
Who is COLOR?
COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights) is a Latina-led, Latina-serving nonprofit organization with deep roots in Colorado and dedicated to reproductive justice. We are a sisterhood of Latinas who believe every person should be able to make decisions about their own bodies and their own futures. All of us can decide when and how often to become a parent, whether to become a parent at all, and to raise our children in safe and healthy environments.
When was COLOR founded and why?
COLOR was founded in 1998 by a group of women, our founding mothers, also called madrinas. These women knew the Latino community, particularly youth, were experiencing high rates of unintended pregnancy, HIV/STDs, and other reproductive health challenges and were compelled to generate a response that addressed the root causes of these issues. They founded an organization that zoomed in education and leadership development, organizing and advocacy. The central belief was and still is today that youth are able to make healthy choices and have strong health outcomes when given the tools and the information. It is a reproductive justice organization because it is more than just choice. It challenges the barriers that keep many in the Latino community from even making a choice. Therefore, our work covers immigrant rights, environmental justice, gender inclusivity and LGBTQ liberation, economic justice and worker’s rights, racial justice.
How is COLOR funded?
As a nonprofit organization it relies on community giving. Foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, donations from individuals and special event revenue. We are in fact getting ready to celebrate an annual event.
Tell Us More About This Year’s Theme
This year’s theme is Back to the Future. There has been a lot of talk regarding women’s rights and the phrase “turning back the clock on women and families” is still ringing strong. Well, our response to that is: Nuff! We’re not turning back the clock on Latinas and our familias, we are going Back to the Future! Back to the reality we deserve: where our human rights matter, where our individual freedoms are respected, protected, and taken seriously.
So folks experienced a colorful mix of futuristic and 80’s theme, with Back to the Future movie characters and costume contest. There will be live music from a local rock-en-espanol band iZCALLI. We’ll have Freddy’s Cuisine food truck on the parking lot of the venue with delicious appetizers and food plates like arepas con chorizo and empanadas with chimichurri salsa. Our gracious host, Bonacquisti Winery, will host a cash bar with their boutique wine and the famous drink we offer at every Viva La Diva event called the Divatini… there will be a photo-booth, a silent auction with great art from local artists and great sex-positive gifts. Also, I will be participating in the program as the Emcee and sharing with the audience. It’s all-around a fun and extravagant party to help raise funds for the great work that COLOR does in the community.
What are you referring to when you say sex-positive?
COLOR is sex-positive because it supports embracing human sexuality and consensual sexual activity as healthy. This social movement encourages and advocates for sex education, safe sex, sexual experimentation and sexual pleasure. The spirit of the event reflects that and includes for instance sex toys and sexuality books in its silent auction.
What is some of the work COLOR does in the community?
It has several youth-oriented leadership programs that give youth information and tools to be empowered and develop their leadership potential. Programs like LOV (Latinas of Vision), which delivers comprehensive sex education to middle schools and high schools in DPS; the program LIPS (Latinas Increasing Political Strength) teaches public speaking, fundraising, advocacy and promotes civic engagement; and lastly the COLORado #1in3 Youth Council, which recruits student activists who outreach on college campuses to help break down stigma surrounding women who consider or seek abortion care. There are other programs geared towards educating the community at large, including Spanish-speaking, immigrant parents, on subjects like How to talk to your youth about sex and sexuality, Mental Health and Latinas, and on health topics, health insurance navigation and health reform.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, COLOR is a grassroots community organization and it does a lot to help Latinos in Colorado lead healthy, successful lives. We invite everyone to support this organization.By supporting COLOR you support Latinas and their families.
Funds from this year’s Viva la Diva will go toward programming at COLOR, including year-round comprehensive sexual education in middle and high schools, and youth leadership programming and advocacy. The group’s programs include Latinas Increasing Political Strength (LIPS) and the COLORado Youth Council, which encourages student activists on college campuses to collect stories about abortion that move from stigma to healing and empowerment. “We have independent workshops that are training an adult audience on how to deal with these issues and be better prepared to navigate health care, talking with youth about sexual education and ending sexual taboos,” Gómez Betancourt says.
Viva la Diva is COLOR’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and Gómez Betancourt says the organization hopes to raise at least $20,000, surpassing last year’s total of $15,000.
Photos by Miguel Baca Barragan, Latin Life Denver Media