New Tepeyac Clinic a Testament to Community
By Roxana A. Soto
May 30, 2023
Many aspects of the brand new Tepeyac Community Health Center in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood are impressive — starting with the fact that it's four times the size of its last space. But the one thing that struck me the most when I walked through the doors of this state-of-the-art facility is that Jim Garcia, the founder and CEO, knew nothing about the healthcare industry when he volunteered to lead the creation of the original clinic in the '90s.
"I had no background whatsoever in healthcare that would lead me to believe that I had any business at all opening up a health clinic," Garcia said. "But I think there was that level of faith combined with this aspirational belief that it was possible, that, you know, our community deserved to have access to quality healthcare."
The idea for a clinic grew out of a parish council meeting at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Garcia, whom we first interviewed for our documentary ¡Qué Viva la Raza! Honoring a Denver Legacy, had joined the church because of its commitment to social justice — an important community value for the native New Mexican.
"I was told by lots of professionals in the field that 'there's no way you're going to be able to open up a clinic, you know, there's too much involved,'" he said. "But I was determined. I knew just based on the people that were a part of it, that came together early on, that there was something different, something just intangible that allowed this project to come together."
It seemed fitting, then, to name the clinic after Tepeyac Hill — a sacred site in Mexico City associated with both the Aztec goddess Tonantzin and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas, and a symbol of faith, unity and the inherent dignity of all people.
Fast forward to today, and the transformation of the original 900-square-foot clinic into the massive 24,500-square-foot Tepeyac Community Health Center is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Besides expanding its reach, Tepeyac is now able to provide a wider range of medical, behavioral health, dental services and even a pharmacy, all under one roof — an invaluable convenience for the predominantly immigrant community served by Tepeyac.
"They're struggling to maintain their employment and taking care of the kids," Garcia said. "If we can make their lives a bit easier by what we're offering here, I think that's something that we do, and now, with this new building, can do it very well."
While its size makes it impossible to miss, it's the vibrant colors and murals adorning the building's walls that make it stand out even more in this historically neglected neighborhood.
"I think it's been a very long time since anything like this has happened for this community," he told me. "
"Oh, yeah, that's the place that made me feel special."