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La Alma, of Emanuel Martinez @La Alma Recreation Center, Denver. Photo: Denver Public Art.
La Alma, by Emanuel Martinez at La Alma Recreation Center, Denver. Photo: Denver Public Art.

Latinx Murals in Denver: A 'museum' of art and history on the streets

The local initiative project hopes to catalog and preserve the murals of Latinx artists on the streets of Denver and highlight the city's Mexican heritage.

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It is known that the gentrification of cities has many complex consequences. In addition to "reorganizing" citizens to generate functional spaces for the new city order, it can also strip the streets of the previously existing link to the city's social fabric.

In Denver, where it is common to find street murals by Latino or Chicano artists, gentrification also threatens to erase part of the city's history. 

"You are erasing a culture, a heritage, from a landscape, from an urban landscape and that cannot be recovered," said Lucha Martinez de Luna, project director and associate curator of History Colorado.

When part of the history is not told in a classroom or on textbooks, the cultural memory printed on the walls does its job. In an city where nearly 30% of residents are Latino, according to U.S. census data, urban art serves an educational and accessible function.

Being able to maintain the murals is a team effort between the artists, the community, and political will.

Jenny Buddenborg, a Denver city planner, said they are working on a project to preserve the city's murals, which will also contribute to a larger view of how Chicanos and Latinos settled in Denver during the 1990s.

Funding for the project comes from the city, History Colorado, and the offices of Councilmembers Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres. Buddenborg made it clear that projects like this could also be worked on to recover the history of African Americans and Native Americans in Denver.

While institutions like SFAM are considering the option of selling a mural by artist Diego Rivera to pay for their installations, Denver authorities are debating how these street murals can be preserved as a historic part of the city, creating a museum of the people for the people. 

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