By Shanea Ruybal
The Denver Urban Renewal Authority decided to build a campus in the Auraria community in the 1970s. This decision led to uprooting the entire community living in the Auraria neighborhood. Most of the residents in Auraria were of Hispanic descent. The community banded together to fight dislocation and ultimately lost in 1972.
St. Cajetan's Church, about 1973, surrounded by construction and demolition debris in anticipation of future Auraria Campus site. Denver Public Library. Latinos/Hispanics in Colorado Collection
The Hispanic community called Auraria their home since the 1910s. The Denver’s Westside was a close community, full of color and life. It was home to many who felt disenfranchised in Anglo society, but in Auraria, they had a center. These people lost a battle that cut deeply into a culture’s soul.
Friends in the Auraria neighborhood, 1955. Denver Public Library. Latinos/Hispanics in
Colorado Collection Picture ARO protesting in Denver Capitol, 1968/69. Denver Public
Library. Latinos/Hispanics in Colorado Collection
Father Pete Garcia organized the Auraria Resident's Organization (ARO) to fight against the Urban Renewal Authority. The ARO organized protests, educating the community and partnered with Catholic churches and the Jewish community in Denver to try and stop the community's forced removal of their homes. ARO felt confident they were winning the battle and were shocked when they lost.
One Sunday, Archbishop James Casey sent a letter to all Catholic churches in Denver to read on the pulpit. The letter encouraged Catholics to vote for the bond issue. Many felt this was the reason the bond passed. This was a terrible loss The for the people, who thought the church was on their side. Not only did people feel betrayed but they had now lost their homes.
ARO protesting in Denver Capitol, 1968/69. Denver Public Library. Latinos/Hispanics
in Colorado Collection
The residents of Auraria, even renters, were compensated for their homes. However, not all renters got their compensation and landlords just evicted them instead. One bright side, to this devastating tale, is that Auraria Higher Education Center promised all residents that the community and their descendants have access to a free education on the campus.
Leta Valdez and Isabel Nieto, walking hand in hand on 9th Street, 1949. Denver
Public Library. Latinos/Hispanics in Colorado Collection