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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas de las Montañas

The importance of showcasing Latino and Latina trailblazers

People only know what they know. And Latinos in the valley are no different. If we have only lived and worked in the region, we may think that some of what we see in the community is normal, including how we feel as Latino and Latina leaders.

For those of us with the privilege to have left and returned to the valley, we know what other self-determined Latinas and Latinos have been able to create for themselves in communities like Montrose, Fort Collins, Durango, Denver or Pueblo, for example. We know Latinas and Latinos have a rich history of leadership in Colorado, dating back to before the 1500s. This history of leadership has included tribal chiefs, Chicano civil rights leaders, labor leaders, organizers, founders of Latino-created nonprofits, mayors, state lawmakers, chiefs of police, heads of federal agencies, ambassadors, everyday activists and many more.

Voces Unidas, through our Charlas con Líderes program, creates an intimate opportunity for our local leaders to meet these contemporary Latina and Latino figures without the need to leave the valley. The hope is for our local leaders to be inspired and see how they, too, can create the change that they want to see for themselves, right here in our valleys.

When we host these leaders from other communities, it’s not about adopting their strategies verbatim. Instead, it’s about relating to and examining these strategies to best adapt them for the uniqueness of our tri-county region. It’s also about learning from history, passing on generational knowledge, connecting as a people, and being active participants in our community.

Our first guest speaker in January was an immigrant entrepreneur Flores-Muños, who authored a how-to book to help undocumented immigrants start a business in Colorado. Alejandro leads several thriving businesses in the Denver area and uses his business influence to advocate for immigration reform, among other issues.

In March, special guest Chef Adàn Medrano spoke about his documentary Truly Texas Mexican and the history that Latinas play in our culinary traditions. We were the first to host him after his documentary premiered on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Youtube.

We also hosted Colorado poet Laureate Bobby LeFebre. LeFebre touched on identity and what being a pioneer as the First Latino/POC Colorado Poet Laureate meant to him, as well as growing up as a first-generation college student.

This week we hosted Chicana leader, Senator Julie Gonzales. Sen. Gonzales is a

prominent immigration reform activist. She worked in organizations like the Colorado Latino Forum, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and Reform Immigration FOR America. Sen. Gonzales is now a go-to leader in the Colorado Senate, using her lived experiences and influence to help communities across the state.

For the rest of the year, we’ll host the first Latina State Senator, Polly Baca, Rudy Gonzales, son of Chicano leader Corky Gonzales and the executive director of Servicios de La Raza, the largest Latino-led nonprofit in Colorado, and the first medical doctor turned state representative, Yadira Caraveo.

To learn more about Charlas de Líderes, visit our website.


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