Denver’s cataloguing its Latino and Chicano history through places and buildings

It’s the first project of its kind in Denver.

"La Alma" mural on the walls of the La Alma Recreation Center on Sept. 1, 2020, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Denver. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Denver will identify and catalogue places and landmarks related to the city’s Chicano and Latino residents in an effort to develop thorough context of their history in the city.

Senior city planner Jenny Buddenborg detailed the project this week during a Landmark Preservation Commission meeting. The Denver Community Planning and Development office, which oversees the city’s preservation efforts, will lead the massive project, which Buddenborg said will provide a broad overview of how Chicanos and Latinos settled in Denver through the 1990s.

Buddenborg said the study will identify places and buildings connected to their culture and history and consider them for historic preservation. In addition to preservation efforts, she added the project will contribute to the citywide building survey, Discover Denver, and help the city make decisions for more inclusive planning and land use. She said the project is in its early planning stages and should be completed by the end of the year.

“It will be a first in a series of historic context undertaken by Landmark Preservation to explore the diverse ethnic and cultural history of Denver,” Buddenborg said during the meeting.

Among the sites and properties the city expects to find are those connected to the Chicano Movement, which saw its heyday in Denver in the 1960s and 1970s. Buddenborg said these sites may include churches, community gathering spots, cultural arts facilities, murals, houses and businesses; she cited West High School and the Aztlan Theatre as examples.

Nearly 30 percent of Denver residents are Latinos, according to U.S. Census data.

Funding for the project comes from the city, History Colorado and from the offices of councilmembers Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres. Buddenborg said the city may do similar projects for African American and Native American history in Denver.