I was born and raised in Pueblo and graduated from high school in the 1980s. My parents shipped me off to college out of state, in part to protect me from what was happening. They owned a small business that suffered during that time and never really recovered. Pueblo stumbled through the ’80s and ’90s. The community faltered; some say it has never recovered.
I left Pueblo in 1989 and returned 17 years later to a community that refused to accept the hand it was dealt. And while many are critical of Pueblo, I can’t help comparing it to other rust belt communities – most notably Flint, Michigan. Flint and Pueblo had roughly the same population, all dependent on one industry. When General Motor’s closed Buick City, Flint lost nearly 65% of its population. Southerners from Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia packed up and went home.
Today, Flint is a mere shadow of its former self. The population has dwindled to about 65,000 people. The former glory of the community is highlighted by the hulking void of Buick City. The factory sits vacant and silent, reminding the community daily of what it used to be. Pueblo, on the other hand, lost only 8% of its population during the ’80s and ’90s. Though it is true that Pueblo has not grown, neither has it experienced a mass exodus. Pueblo is home.
From those who are transplanted here, you will hear many say that Pueblo has such great people. It’s true. A friend once told me that every community is pretty much the same: there are grocery stores, drug stores, a library in nearly every town; but it’s the people who make a community special. Pueblo is special because of the people who live here. Puebloans saved the Union Avenue Historic District from demolition. Puebloans built the Arts Center. Puebloans built the Convention Center and the Riverwalk. Puebloans daily put their shoulders to the grindstone and make the city work. And for that, we can all be Pueblo proud.