If you celebrate Cinco de Mayo with margaritas, you're not entirely off track. So do Chicanos. You can't have a real fiesta without food and drink, after all. The rest of us veer off, though, when we leave the holiday to simply that.
While you may have heard that Cinco is not celebrated in Mexico (which isn't true), you probably haven't heard much about its significance within a civil rights movement that transformed the lives of Mexican-Americans and other Latinos from Texas to California, and throughout the state of Colorado. Alongside the movement of blacks in the American South, a new, Chicano identity arose in the 1960s and 1970s from more than a century of social, economic, political and cultural persecution in the West.
Now is a great time to correct course and learn more about this era with a trip to the El Pueblo History Museum, where the traveling exhibit El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Colorado has taken up residence since late January. Puebloans were part of the statewide committee responsible for the original exhibit, which launched in early 2015 at Denver's History Colorado Center.
El Pueblo's exhibit brings out even more of the local history thanks to a dedicated group of comrades who reunited late last year to review materials for the Pueblo show. As they sifted through troves of personal artifacts from the era, a glaring omission loomed large: Despite playing a significant role in the movement, Pueblo's Chicano history had never been formally, collectively documented. Shifting naturally into action, the group decided to produce a book, due out in late June, that will serve to educate current and future generations about Pueblo's vibrant and enduring Chicano heritage, as well as document its history.
The project is no simple task. Pueblo's movement claimed several successes that rooted Chicanos into the foundations of public and private life that extends through today in civic institutions (justice, education, government, health), the arts, and all types of business.
Perhaps most inspiring is the groundwork laid by Pueblo's Chicanas, women like Carmen Arteaga (top), who dedicated her career to education and Chicano-inclusive curriculums; El Pueblo Museum's former director, Deborah Espinosa (middle), a committed cultural advocate; and Rita Martinez (bottom), a tireless social justice activist who has adapted the organizing and media skills she acquired decades ago to today's challenges, such as police brutality and true community engagement.
The stories behind the struggles that led to their achievements are captivating, and with creative programming and events that will continue throughout the year, the museum's hardworking and fun-loving staff has helped to sustain the committee's energy in developing the exhibit.
History Colorado would be wise to invest in making more of Pueblo's story part of its permanent display. Because la luche sigue(the fight continues). And we have a lot of history yet to make.