May 21, 2021 - News

What the fight for rights in Denver's Latino community looks like now

A mural on the La Alma Recreation Center

A mural painted on La Alma Recreation Center in Denver. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

From cultural preservation and immigration reform to fair representation and health care equity, Denver Latinos' decades-old fight for equal rights roars on — and it's growing stronger.

Driving the news: La Alma Lincoln Park, Denver’s oldest residential neighborhood that once served as the soul — or "la alma" — of the Chicano movement, is on track to become the city's second-ever historic cultural district.

Why it matters: The latest moves serve as an overdue recognition of the city's rich Chicano history and the struggles that have kept Latinos in Denver, and across the country, lagging behind white Americans — disparities that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

What they're saying: "We should be acknowledged and not erased from this history," said Emanuel Martinez, a Denver artist who painted the city's first public mural, during a May 15 community meeting about the resident-led historic designation proposal.

  • "Gentrification has been eliminating a lot of the cultural values and assets in the community, and this is our last chance," said Martinez, who was also an activist in the National Chicano Civil Rights Movement.

What else: In recent months, state lawmakers have taken numerous steps to defend and advance Latino rights, including moving swiftly to provide financial relief and legal protections to immigrants.

  • Meanwhile, a coalition of Latina state and local elected officials are demanding fair representation from 9NEWS leadership, after a Latina journalist in Denver sounded the alarm about alleged discrimination in the newsroom.

What's next: The La Alma Lincoln Park cultural district proposal heads to the Landmark Preservation Commission on June 15 and the Planning Board on June 16, city planning department spokesperson Amanda Weston told Axios.

  • A Denver City Council committee is tentatively scheduled to hear the application on July 13, with a public hearing and final vote slated for Aug. 2.

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