Pueblo’s Chicano demographic will soon be the new focus of a conversation regarding the Colorado Chicano movement during the 1960s and 70s, what has changed since and what still needs improvement.
The El Pueblo Museum will be opening an exhibit titled ‘El Movimiento’ on Jan. 22. The exhibit’s title translates to ‘the movement,’ which will showcase “…the voices, experiences, documents, artifacts, photographs and footage of the people of Pueblo who were central to the Colorado Chicano Movement,” said El Pueblo History Museum Director Dawn DiPrince.
The exhibit will also give visitors the chance to add their names and tell their accounts of the Chicano Movement to expand on the history and add more of a local perspective.
“We see this artifact-rich exhibit as the beginning or an important conversation for Pueblo,” DiPrince said.
While civil rights are generally associated with African Americans and their fight for equality and justice, the Colorado Chicano population was fighting the same fight during the 60s and 70s.
“From Colorado, we are comfortable talking about the ‘whites only’ signs in Alabama. But it is important to acknowledge and confront the ‘whites only, no Mexicans’ signs that once were posted in Colorado and Pueblo,” DiPrince said.
During the civil rights era it wasn’t entirely unusual to see marches and school walkouts happening.
“Protests and organizing helped to diminish the racism and discrimination that once flourished here in education, media, health care and business,” DiPrince said.
With Pueblo having a large Chicano population, many locals might have even played a role in the movement.
“I remember when I was about to enter college, people still had outhouses… People were hugely disenfranchised in all aspects of life. We had no representation on school boards, classrooms, commissions or councils,” said Deborah Espinosa, former director of the El Pueblo History Museum.
“Chicano families were not receiving adequate health care. People could not get bank loans for mortgages, or businesses…and police brutality was rampant,” Espinosa said.
The Chicano Movement was a social movement in which Chicano’s pursued justice and equality for their schools, communities, health care, land rights and labor rights.
“It is the roots of many things that exist today, such as [the] four-decades running Cinco de Mayo event, Latino-owned businesses, CSU-Pueblo’s designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution, Chicano Studies programs, El Quinto del Sol and Plaza Verde Park, ballet folklorico groups and so much more,” DiPrince said.
The staff at the El Pueblo History Museum feel that a better tomorrow can be created if history, background and roots are fully explored and understood.
“This show will hopefully inspire discussion and analysis of what transpired and what work remains to be done,” Espinosa said.
Although much has changed since the beginning of the Chicano Movement, the Pueblo community is still facing some of the same problems it did back then such as the drug epidemic, Espinosa explained.
“We not only need classroom education, our residents need to be educated about mass incarceration and what the drugs are doing to the fiber of their community,” Espinosa said. “Drug addiction is a health issue and not a crime, so we can all get active on these issues and learn from the lessons of the Chicano Movement.”
The exhibit is travelling to Pueblo from Denver’s History Colorado Center and will be altered slightly to include more Pueblo specific artifacts and information.
“We are starting with this Colorado inspired exhibit and weaving in more Pueblo-centered threads,” DiPrince explained.
The museum has partnered with Colorado State University-Pueblo in order to bring in speakers, panel discussions, authors, and other social activists on the topic in order to expand on the history of the movement.
“The exhibit includes history that has been underrepresented in textbooks. And thus, the exhibit will serve as a text for Chicano Studies courses at the university,” DiPrince said.
“It will be a learning tool for the college and high school students who take these courses and the thousands of school kids who visit the museum on field trips each year.”
During the civil rights era, Denver was generally cited as the birthplace of the Chicano Movement. However, many strikes and riots also occurred across other Colorado cities.
“Pueblo was a hot-bed of activity and was a vital and dynamic part of the movement,” Espinosa said.
During the movement in Pueblo, an alternative news source was established called the La Cucaracha newspaper which continually published editorials, photographs, political cartoons and social and political news stories related to Chicano culture and the movement.
There were multiple social and political reasons behind the movement, but Puebloans were most focused on pursuing change in schools and electing Chicano’s to leadership positions in the community.
“No one can deny the benefits with the number of Chicano professionals and civic leaders in Pueblo,” Espinosa said.
The El Movimiento exhibit will be on display in Pueblo until Dec. 12, 2016. historycoloradocenter.org.