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City of Denver launches project to preserve Latino, Chicano history

Denver’s Landmark Preservation staff is spearheading the job
Aztlan Theatre
Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 20:39:35-04

DENVER — For people in certain Denver neighborhoods, when they look at an old building, the memories behind the architecture stays with them.

"When I was a teenager we used to come and watch movies here all the time, and I wish they fixed that up again," Rosalie Tapia said about the Aztlan Theatre.

Tapia was born and raised near La Alma Park, and now, she walks her grandchildren through the place she calls home.

"As they’re growing up, I want them to learn my heritage too and what it means to be in this area and all the landmarks that they do have around here," Tapia said.

For Tapia, it’s the Aztlan Theatre on Sante Fe Drive that calls to her. For others, it’s the elaborate murals found in surrounding parks that tell a story.

Recalling Latino and Chicano history from settlement up until the 1990s is now the work of the city’s Community Planning and Development Department.

"It also identifies historic places and spaces that are significant to that history so that we can tell that history. We recognize that through the preservation work that we have done in the city of Denver to date, its not necessarily telling the whole diverse vibrant history of our city," said Jennifer Buddenborg with the Landmark Preservation Program of Community Planning.

Only about 4% of designated buildings and landmarks represent Latino and Chicano communities and other communities of color. For Rudy Gonzales, son of Chicano activist, Corky Gonzales, it’s about time for change.

"My dad, I think, would appreciate the fact that this is happening finally. Especially now that we have seen a pretty significant influx of people from across the country settling down in Denver and Colorado to really understand who we are as a people, as an indigenous people," Gonzales said.

It's an important step for the city to let the history of its neighborhoods be preserved.

"The Latinos need their history, you know? It’s not all about landmarks for white people. Latinos need their heritage, too, to be shown here," Tapia said.

Because if 2020 was a year of awakening, equity and representation are next in line.

The city’s Community Planning and Development Department is doing outreach to the community as well as hosting virtual events for anyone interested in participating and sharing their thoughts.