History Colorado

At History Colorado, we believe in making Colorado’s history accessible and in creating opportunities that connect people to Colorado and our past to cultivate an informed future. We are Colorado!

Resources from History Colorado


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History Colorado

Virginia Castro

Virginia Castro’s mother, Lola Cruz, was born in Mexico and came to Colorado’s Western Slope with her family around 1925. Her maternal grandfather was a migrant worker who scraped together enough money to buy land in Silt, where Virginia was born at home. Virginia was essentially raised by her maternal grandmother, who spoke only Spanish. “The only history that I remember her telling me is that Emiliano Zapata had come to their village. And that was it as far as the history.” Virginia faced discrimination and bullying at school, a situation worsened by the fact that her family was one of only two Hispano families in the area. When Virginia was 12, her father got a job at a steel mill in Pueblo and moved the family to the predominantly Hispano neighborhood of Salt Creek. She continued to experience adversity, especially because of her family’s low income. After her parents split, Virginia spent time both in Pueblo and visiting Glenwood Springs as an adolescent. She met Richard Lucero in Rifle and, before she graduated high school, she’d married him and had her first son. At her husband’s urging and now with three sons, the couple moved to Denver to be with his family. They lived with seventeen people in a house on the Westside before moving out on their own; the birth of another child followed—this time a daughter. But when Virginia decided she wanted to attend Emily Griffith Opportunity School, it signaled the end of her first marriage. She was selected for a competitive nursing program at Denver General Hospital, which encouraged her to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Metropolitan State College of Denver. That is where she first learned about the El Movimiento. Virginia was a central player in El Movimiento. Influenced by both the Chicano Movimiento and the Women’s Liberation movement, she was particularly inspired by Colorado grape boycott leader Juanita Herrera. She helped organize students to picket against a Spanish teacher who was treating the native Spanish speakers in her class unfairly. Although she was fluent in Spanish, she didn’t know much about her heritage. She says that learning history was an important part of El Movimiento: “You need to learn your history, because if you don’t know your history, who are you?” She felt the pressure to learn; she remembers going to the library and being surprised to discover so many books that had been written by authors with Spanish names. She and her fellow Chicano/as organized a United Mexican American Students organization at Metro, which spread to colleges throughout the Southwest. And, when Metro was planning its move to Auraria, Westside community members asked her and her fellows to help build relationships with the people living there. They ended up advocating to reimburse residents for their forced displacement.
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History Colorado

Teatro Campesino performing at CU Boulder

Digital copy of a film negative taken by photographer Juan Espinosa in May 1974. The image depicts El Teatro Campesino actors performing a play, "La Carpa de los Rasquachis," at the Mary Rippon Theatre on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. El Teatro Campesino is a theatrical troupe that was founded in 1965 by the United Farm Workers (UFW) to put on plays about Chicano culture with farmworker actors. Juan Espinosa was a journalism student at the University of Colorado in Boulder when he took this photograph. He won his first camera in a poker game at Da Nang Air Force Base in Vietnam while serving with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and, after his discharge in 1969, learned journalistic photography and darkroom techniques at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. Espinosa enrolled at CU Boulder in 1971, joined the United Mexican Student Association (UMAS), and worked as a stringer for the Colorado Daily newspaper and as a photographer for UMAS Publications, which published Somos Aztlan magazine and newspaper by the same name. In the summer of 1972, Espinosa founded the El Diario student newspaper during the summer of 1972, which primarily covered the Chicano civil rights movement and UMAS activities on the CU Boulder campus. Between 1971-1974, Espinosa photographed the events and people of the Chicano civil rights movement in Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and California. In 1975, he and his wife Deborah moved to Pueblo, Colo., where they founded and published La Cucaracha, a community newspaper, from 1976-1984. Espinosa later worked as a reporter and photographer for the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper for 22 years.
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