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Community Voices

The Chicana/o/x Murals of Colorado Project has a new and ongoing initiative for visual and oral storytelling: Community Voices. Facilitated and curated by community members and students, these first-hand stories offer social context to murals by Chicana/o/x artists and their neighborhoods. Storytellers share their diverse experiences of collective resistance, celebration, and future desires for their neighborhoods. 

 

These excerpts are part of a recent oral history project by Lia Musante in collaboration with eight storytellers deeply linked with La Alma and Auraria, two neighborhoods in Denver’s West Side. 

Explore below a few of these community voices from storytellers who are activists,  educators, artists, historians, and/or long-time residents of the neighborhoods.

Mural Stories in Denver

Learn about some of the early murals painted in Denver by Chicana/o/x artists.

The West Side’s Chicana/o/x Activism

Hear storytellers describe their experiences of the Chicana/o/x Movement in the 1960s and 70s.

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Community Control as Resistance and Resilience

Learn about how residents of La Alma and Auraria built their own internal systems for sharing power and control over their own communities.

Casa Mayan's History in Auraria

North of La Alma, residents of Auraria experienced mass displacement in the 1960s and 70s. Listen to stories of Casa Mayan, a former community hub and Mexican restaurant that thrived for decades before Auraria's gentrification.

Ties to Space and Neighbors Amidst Gentrification

Hear long-time resident's experiences and responses to changes in the West Side due to urban development and gentrification.

Sharing Knowledge and Power with Young People

Storytellers pass down lessons from their activism to young people—another way that the emotional attachments to La Alma and Auraria transcend across time.

Ways of Remembering

So then, how should the histories of the Chicana/o/x Movement and La Alma and Auraria’s community organizing be represented and kept alive?

Meet the Storytellers

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Helen Giron-Mushfiq

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Lucha Martínez de Luna

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Andy Mendoza

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Emanuel Martínez

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Gregorio González Alcaro

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Karma Leigh

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Desiree Maestas and Cathy Prieto

About this project

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My name is Lia, and from November 2021 until April 2022 I worked with a handful of long-time residents of La Alma and Auraria for this oral history project, where they discuss their experiences as a part of the neighborhoods, their past and current community organizing, as well as their desires and hopes for the future.

 

Above are descriptions and examples of what I and the residents see as major takeaways of the oral histories. La Alma and Auraria have a long and multi-layered history of residents connecting with one another in order to make-real their wants and hopes for the neighborhoods. Each storyteller’s unique experience and way of recollecting shed light on the multiplicity of histories surrounding La Alma and Auraria, but simultaneously, many stories share sentiments despite differences across generations and particular focuses in the communities. 

This project was part of my undergraduate thesis in Sociology and Revolutions, with the goal of it being useful to ongoing community organizing in Denver. As an uninvited White settler, I grew up on Susquehannock, Piscataway, and Nentego (Nanticoke) land on the East coast and lived on Ute and Cheyenne land at the time of this project. In many respects I am not from the communities highlighted here, and I sought to account for how this work and my perspective can perpetuate oppressive power structures, and I hope to leverage my privilege toward storytellers' goals for the neighborhoods. As someone passionate about local community organizing, I have a great deal to learn from these storytellers and want to be intentional in making space for complexity in their stories and perspectives.

 

This project was made possible by the eight storytellers who trusted me with their lived experience and knowledge, as well as their insight on the direction of this work. I am grateful for their compassion and willingness to share and guide me. I am also thankful that this project can live on here and be put in conversation with Colorado's Chicana/o/x mural movement!

To hear the stories and sentiments highlighted, listen along with this playlist of audio clips from the oral histories collected for this project:

References

City of Denver Community Planning and Development. “Proposed La Alma-Lincoln Park Historic District.” City of Denver. Retrieved and adapted May 3, 2022. (https://www.denvergov.org/files/assets/public/community-planning-and-development/documents/landmark-preservation/designation-applications/la-alma/la_alma_lincoln_park_map_amended_ada.pdf).

 

Fairhill & Co.. 2019. “La Alma Lincoln Park.” Denver, CO: Historic Denver, Inc. (https://historicdenver.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/LALP-Historic-Context-draft-2019.04.11.pdf).

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