Latino/Chicano Historic Context Study

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

Overview

Denver’s historic fabric comes from the stories of the diverse persons and groups who comprise its vibrant history. Led by Denver’s Landmark Preservation staff in partnership with the city’s I Am Denver storytelling project, this first-of-its-kind initiative in Denver will uncover and share the deep history and historic places of Denver’s Chicano and Latino communities. Through engaging public outreach and traditional historic research, this project will create a broad overview on the citywide settlement and development patterns of Latino and Chicano communities in Denver up to the 1990s.

The project will:

  • Identify important historical themes, such as social history, art, architecture, education, religion, ethnic heritage, and commerce;
  • Identify significant locations and buildings affiliated with that rich history; 
  • Help preserve and protect Latino and Chicano cultures;
  • Build a more inclusive list of designated Denver landmarks and historic districts;
  • Inform the citywide building survey Discover Denver
  • Guide the development of neighborhood plans; and
  • Be the first in a series of historic contexts to explore the diverse ethnic and cultural history of Denver.

Funding for this project comes from: Community Planning and Development, the offices of councilmembers Jamie Torres and Amanda Sandoval, History Colorado’s State Historical Fund, and the Peter Grant Preservation Services Fund for Colorado of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

(Photo: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church) 

Key Findings

Over the course of this project, members of Denver’s Mexican American, Chicano, and Latino communities shared their oral histories, experiences, and perspectives with city staff and partners, which are reflected in the ¡Qué Viva la Raza! documentary and final project report(PDF, 46MB). More than 300 people shared compelling stories and worked to identify significant places across Denver that are part of this vibrant heritage.

 

View the interactive StoryMap

This study identified eight key themes rooted in Denver’s Mexican American, Chicano, and Latino history. These themes are closely tied to the significant places that these communities hold dear.

  1. Religion and Spirituality: Religious facilities where the sense of place and community is strong. 
  2. Education: Schools that offered a central space to learn and participate in after-school activities, sports, and meetings. 
  3. Labor: Latinos/Mexicanos came to Denver during periods of significant economic growth. As these communities grew, they gained representation within unions and other organizations through strikes, boycotts, and self-organizing efforts. 
  4. Commerce: Mexicanos/Latinos throughout Denver built prosperous and essential businesses for all members of the community. 
  5. Politics: The fight for political representation and civic inclusion began before statehood. Within the city, many individuals and organizations helped their neighborhoods and shaped city politics.
  6. El Movimiento/The Chicano Movement: The Chicano Movement in Denver consisted of grassroots organizing by numerous activists, including the Crusade for Justice, established by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales and others. 
  7. Arts: The renaissance of Chicano music, literature, art, poetry, dance, and theater, which started during the 1960s as an integral part of El Movimiento, remains a crucial component of culture in Denver today. 
  8. Neighborhood Life: Denver’s neighborhoods feature countless essential places for Latinos/Mexicanos, where people have fostered a strong sense of belonging, developed deep relationships, and feel connected and accepted. 

A few examples of the buildings and sites identified through these key themes include La Raza Park, Morrison Road commercial district between Sheridan Blvd. and W. Alameda Ave., Su Teatro, and Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios.

Resources

What is a historic context?

A historic context is a technical historic preservation document used to guide preservation planning. It helps identify what significant historic places exist so they can be recognized, protected and celebrated. Community Planning and Development has developed several historic contexts to help guide the city's work to identify and protect significant historic places across Denver, most recently through the citywide building survey Discover Denver. The Latino/Chicano Historic Context is Denver's first historic context study to focus on a specific ethnic, racial or cultural group. 

Here are some examples of historic contexts from around the United States: