Mar 14, 2022 - News

Redistricting process drives rift between Denver's Latina leaders

Denver City Council member Candi CdeBaca. Photo: Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The battle over political boundaries is dividing Latinas on the Denver City Council.

Why it matters: Latino residents are without a unified front as crunch time arrives for Denver's decennial redistricting process, and the rift could have lasting consequences for their neighborhoods and political representation.

State of play: Council member Candi CdeBaca recently took aim at the four other Latina members on council, calling them "#MalincheStrong" on her personal social media account for failing to support her proposed redistricting plan, Map A, which she argues maintains a majority-minority seat.

  • "Malinche" is a Spanish-language insult used to denounce people of Latin descent for betraying their own people and culture.

What they're saying: The slight sparked a rare public rebuttal from council members Debbie Ortega, Amanda Sandoval, Jamie Torres and Stacie Gilmore, who called themselves "#LatinaStrong."

  • Malinche is "rooted in racism, sexism and hatred, and its use not only exacts trauma between one another but also brings forth trauma for all Latinas and Chicanas in Denver," the four penned in an opinion piece published in Westword. "We are better than that."
  • Meanwhile, CdeBaca doubled down on her claim, adding she "[did] not have anything to apologize for," in a statement she shared with Axios Denver on Sunday.

Zoom out: Leaders of Colorado's Latino community say the division is CdeBaca's fault and a disservice to some of the city's most vulnerable residents, whose voices could be weakened if certain parts of the city are split up.

  • "We're quickly losing those communities anyway through gentrification and being priced out of the city," Rudy Gonzales, executive director of Servicios de La Raza, tells Axios Denver.

Of note: Gonzales supports proposed maps D and E, which are also backed by the Latina council members, because they both "secure and strengthen minority communities."

  • They oppose CdeBaca's map because they argue it would fracture multiple neighborhoods outside her district, including Chaffee Park in Sandoval's district and Montbello in Gilmore's territory.
  • CdeBaca, on the other hand, contends her map ensures council members are "doing everything we can to enable the most collective power possible."

What's next: On Monday, a council committee is scheduled to vote on four proposed maps that remain in the running — A, C, D and E.

  • Council members will vote on the final version March 29, when a public hearing is also set.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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