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The art sign at Jeff Madeen's Blo Back Gallery in The Grove Neighborhood in Pueblo, Colorado. (Photo PULP)

Minority Majority: Pueblo Hispanics must redefine what it means to be Hispanic in the Steel City

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Sometime in this last decade, the City of Pueblo hit the inflection point where there were more people of Hispanic origin than of White according to the census.

The number, 49-percent of persons of Hispanic origin in 2010, ticked quietly to 52-percent in 2017. Pueblo County as a whole is 42-percent Hispanic origin.

Pueblo is and will be a ‘Border Town’– a confluence city of cultures and people where it’s normal and unsurprising to meet a family with a Slovenian-Irish-Greek-Mexican-German-Italian origination story or some combination thereof because of the number of immigrants needed to work the mines and mills for production of American steel.

In less than 50 years Hispanics have gone from being no more than a quarter of the population and marginalized in many ways of Pueblo life. What Hispanics will for the first time be forced to define is what it means to be Hispanic in Pueblo, in the ways of culture, sports, civic life, philanthropy, and faith.

After steel and the industrial era of Pueblo collapsed, Pueblo began commodifying the nostalgia into heritage tourism and it found another worldwide brand – Pueblo Chile. From the Pueblo Chile license plates, TV shows featuring Coor’s Tavern and The Sunset Inn sloppers, an official brand for Pueblo Chile, and reputation for its food – Pueblo has changed its narrative from an industrial western town towards a dustier version of a border town, with an adobe fort, traders from various nations and more copacetic spirit towards indigenous peoples.

It’s a positive image but the focus on only Pueblo Chile has dominated, even pushed aside other aspects of Hispanic life to be reduced down to a Fiesta Day Parade and Tex-Mex La Cocina dishes.

This is the space Pueblo Hispanics will have to settle in to change. What is Pueblo beyond Pueblo Chile for Hispanics?

Sometime in this last decade, the City of Pueblo hit the inflection point where there were more people of Hispanic origin than of White according to the census.
The number, 49-percent of persons of Hispanic origin in 2010, ticked quietly to 52-percent in 2017. Pueblo County as a whole is 42-percent Hispanic origin.
Pueblo is and will be a ‘Border Town’– a confluence city of cultures and people where it’s normal and unsurprising to meet a family with a Slovenian-Irish-Greek-Mexican-German-Italian origination story or some combination thereof because of the number of immigrants needed to work the mines and mills for production of American steel.
In less than 50 years Hispanics have gone from being no more than a quarter of the population and marginalized in many ways of Pueblo life. What Hispanics will for the first time will be forced to define is what it means to be Hispanic in Pueblo, in the ways of culture, sports, civic life, philanthropy, and faith.
After steel and the industrial era of Pueblo collapsed, Pueblo began commodifying the nostalgia into heritage tourism and it found another worldwide brand – Pueblo Chile. From the Pueblo Chile license plates, TV shows featuring Coor’s Tavern and The Sunset Inn sloppers, an official brand for Pueblo Chile, and reputation for its food – Pueblo has changed its narrative from an industrial western town towards a dustier version of a border town, with an adobe fort, traders from various nations and more copacetic spirit towards indigenous peoples.
It’s a positive image but the focus on only Pueblo Chile has dominated, even pushed aside other aspects of Hispanic life to be reduced down to a Fiesta Day Parade and Tex-Mex La Cocina dishes.
This is the space Pueblo Hispanics will have to settle in to change. What is Pueblo beyond Pueblo Chile for Hispanics?
I don’t know that answer but I know today just the name Hispanic, or Latino, Chicano even LatinX isn’t enough to describe some Puebloans.
Like the confluence point where the Fountain Creek mixes with the Arkansas River, Pueblo is much the same, a multicultural town made up of various nations, immigrants and indigenous peoples.
Hispanic-Slovenian, Vietnamese-Mexican, Italian-New Mexican, Mexican-Anglo, Navajo-Mexican American – the combinations change but the effect is the same. None of which is unique to Pueblo except the affinity that Pueblo sees itself as a place of confluence.
Maybe that’s why Hispanic culture in Pueblo is muted beyond the tourism angle. For many Hispanics, myself included, either you’re white or you’re Hispanic and with that comes the racial predetermination that you are, well, – not American but Mexican-American, from the barrio or “east side,” which is not something that should be looked down on.
This space is where Pueblo Hispanics will be challenged to retain their heritage but also redefine what it means to be “Pueblo.”
You can see this playing out now in “The Grove,” one of Pueblo’s oldest neighborhoods, which sits above the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek confluence. Because of its position between downtown Pueblo and CF&I, the neighborhood was a likely spot for immigrant families to live, worship and enjoy life. Today, however, like other old neighborhoods in Pueblo it’s tired, not broken, just tired from the weight of steel’s collapse.
There is progress. In a span of just a few blocks underneath the redesign of I-…
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Minority Majority: Pueblo Hispanics must redefine what it means to be Hispanic in the Steel City
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