Especial Comunidad Guest DJs

Comunidad Guest DJ: Vivian Alexandra

Vivian Alexander, aka Diosa Azteca
Photo Credit: Jules Doyle Photo

En una otra vida, I used to play roller derby (not very well). I still follow along, though - it is 100% my favorite sport. During the World Cup (yes that's a thing), I always support Team Indigenous and Team Mexico. Locally, well - there's no shortage of amazing teams here in Colorado (it's almost ridiculous how many amazing teams we have). Denver Roller Derby, aka DRD, is, in fact, ranked #4 in the world (the. world.). When I saw my guest this week was transferring from Team Mexico to DRD, well. I almost decided to lace my skates back up to even watch her practice from the sides (still might if we can ever play derby again!).

Diosa Azteca con Team Mexiquito, en La Copa Mundial, 2018.
Photo Credit: Len Rizzo

Diosa Azteca is Vivian Alexandra, and I am so thrilled to welcome her as la comunidad guest DJ this week. Get to know V, and check out 10 songs she loves below!

Tell me more about your background:
I was born in Los Angeles, California, but I was raised in Mexico City. I have lived here for the last 2 1/2 years.

What do you do in the Denver community:
I am part of Denver Roller Derby League where me and two other members are the Latinxs of the entire league. I moved here because I do Roller Derby and I wanted to play it at a pro level. When I started to practice it in Mexico I became a huge fan of Denver Roller Derby, and also when I was teenager I used to come to visit one of my tias that lives here, which makes this place feel familiar for me. So it was easier to decide what place in the US to pick, and not less important, to help my family.

I started to play Roller Derby in 2012, one of my friends in College invited me but I was not curious about it because at that time I was playing guitar and trying to start a band. Then when they did a video for Sprite showing what they do, and I watched on TV when I was at home I got knocked because it was powerful to see girls being strong, aggressive, fast, brave and at that time RD was very punk rock-ish too. I bought very cheap skates to start just to see if I like it and then the rest is history. I have represented Mexico twice in the World cup (Dallas, TX and Manchester, UK) I played for MCRD (Mexico City Roller Derby) they have been champions for three years in a row and I was part of that success two years with them. Then I transferred to Denver and now I am part of the 4th ranked team in the world. I got to skate with them as cross over but my goal is to be a base skater of the all-stars team, I need to keep working physically and mentally again because this COVID situation hit us hard. 

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
I identified as Mexican, feminist and proudly Chicana, too.

It has been hard to me to find a community where I can feel part of it. I think the main reason is because the language barrier - when you don't speak English fluently it is hard to create connections because you can't express yourself, to feel in a language that you are learning is difficult.
Sometimes I felt that I had two personalities (haha it is weird but it is real, one in Spanish and other one in English). People can interpret that I am shy just because I don't interact as much as I want, sometimes I feel invisible and uncomfortable. It is hard and it is not easy to move from your comfort zone to start practicing and start to feel frustrated, and that feeling just reinforces the idea that I don't belong here. Then it is hard to match with people that does not share your roots, your culture, that doesn't know or deal with the struggles of being a minority, when they have other lifestyle/privileges and you have to keep working for "the American dream," or the goals that you have on mind in order to help your family, when they don't look like you, when they socialize in different ways that you don't know/like/understand. I have just a few friends because and I am working in making my community, it is challenging to start in a new place where you don't know people and you have to start from zero. But I have found people that I love and that I feel happy and grateful to have in my life too. It just takes time, every year is different and I feel more confident and every time I get used to more and more things. I have found small businesses, art projects, artists, social movements that enrich my life because they celebrate my culture, our culture and make me feel that I am not alone and that this is my home now.

Describe your playlist:
I am a punk rock girl and I have a very eclectic taste of music. But I realized that I like to listen to more music in Spanish, maybe because sometimes I am homesick and it makes me feel closer to my hometown.

Follow Diosa Azteca, Denver Roller Derby, and Team Mexico on Instagram.

Comunidad Guest DJ: Jenna Manchego

Jenna Manchego
Photo provided by guest.

I feel like if you meet someone at an Itchy-O show it's a sign. Happy to have my my guest, Jenna Manchego, at such an occasion. Jenna does... all the things. An artist, but also a community organizer. An entrepreneur and also an investor. And many other things. Also, obviously a fire DJ by the playlist... dayum. Get to know Jenna better here, and check out 10 songs below!

What do you do in the Denver community?: 
I am an artist, entrepreneur, birthworker, and gardener. Currently, much of my time is spent growing my business. The main focus is connecting people with tools and resources to build generational wealth by breaking cycles of scarcity and societally designed ignorance about finances. Birthwork, rematriation, social justice actions, and mutual aid are other parts of my soul’s work, and all of these aspects of my life have become more integrated, especially with the unfolding events of this year. 

Tell me more about your background:
I was born and raised in southwest Denver, CO, in the Barnum neighborhood. Both of my great-grandmothers in my maternal lineage moved to Colorado as teenagers from so-called northern New Mexico. Because of colonization, assimilation, and how that manifested in my family through the years, I had to do a lot of my own digging about our true heritage, and history. 

After my great-grandmother Alicia Gallegos passed, everyone in my family had a different story about where we come from, and none felt accurate. Many romanticized our native ancestry while comfortably allowing our cultures and traditions to fade into obscurity. I only went to Pow Wows a few times as a child, and certainly didn’t practice any indigenous traditions growing up, with the exception of food preparation, which was an anchor for me in my journey of re-discovery. With the help of my cousin Malarie and some heavy lifting from our family in Utah, I was able to confirm our maternal last name was Candelaria (not their original name, but one of the first taken on from spanish settlers), and our family primarily lived in Abiquiu. My other great-grandmother’s family was from Questa, NM. Both areas are Pueblo territory, and in the early 1600’s when detribalization began, Abiquiu later became a Genízaro buffer settlement, where indigenous people from all over Turtle Island were brought to after being captured and enslaved. There is still so much more for me to uncover, learn, and confirm about my ancestry. It feels daunting, but is exactly the adventure and challenge my Spirit needs for the healing of my lineage. 

In learning more about my background, I’ve become more empowered in the ways I choose to engage in my local community. Since I was about 19 years old, I’ve volunteered in community gardening projects during different parts of the season, and this year in particular, developed a large garden from start to finish, with the help of my amazing friend Rayanna Schutt, and a tremendous amount of volunteers throughout the season during our social-distanced community work days. The majority of our harvest was donated, or offered at a low cost/sliding scale to people in our extended community. In birthwork, I’ve assisted with three births and one postpartum journey, while apprenticing with Melissa Ivey from 2017-2020, as well as doing self-studies. This summer I was asked to join a BIPOC centered birthworker collective to be able to serve new birthing families more comprehensively. I look forward to studying birthwork in greater depths from established indigenous teachers in the future (shout out to Pānquetzani, a.k.a. Indigemama, your courses are on my wishlist). I’ve also collaborated with many unaffiliated groups and mutual aid networks to provide food, masks, sanitary needs, tents, and survival supplies to our houseless neighbors throughout the pandemic. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the everyday people who’ve shown up to do what our governments won’t. The coming months and years seem to offer much potential in future collaboration and horizontal organizing of actions. 

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
With all due respect to others, and our individual journeys in reclamation and decolonization, I don’t identify with the terms “Latinidad”, “Latino”, nor “Mestizo” and ESPECIALLY “Hispanic”. I am Indigenous. I am also of european descent. I am of the colonized people, as well as the colonizer, while learning to transcend the binary of both. I do not subscribe to the casta system that created some of the language either. Each of these words were created by colonizers to lump all people from so-called North, Central, and South America, under one homogenous term. It’s one of the more subtle attempts at erasure. “Latin America” was played up by Napoleon III in the 1860’s, to show a shared heritage between France and Mexico before his attempted takeover of Mexico. 

In more recent times, it’s become apparent that the term Latinidad and its cultural umbrella can be rampant with anti-blackness, and not inclusive of those who are descendents of the African-Diaspora, as well as indigenous descendents. I also understand this term serves a purpose for the time being, as there aren’t other terms to encompass this concept, but part of that is because it’s impossible to talk about a unifying factor between all of the countries and regions attempted to be included in “Latinidad”, without the discourse of settler-colonialism. That is its own conversation, which would require more space than seems appropriate to open up now. 

Why does representation matter in your community work:
Seeing more urban Indigenous folks step into the work it takes to uncover and nourish our roots keeps me inspired and connected to the greater vision. Whether it’s financial education and empowerment, birthwork, mutual aid, or any other facet of my life, I seek to center BIPOC and QTPOC voices, experiences, and individual needs. Our collective of birth workers are predominantly black and indigenous, and we offer access to the same communities by subsidizing the cost from the families receiving care, through grants and donations. 

As an urban Indigenous descendant, who did not grow up immersed in any culture outside of “American” culture until I sought it out as an adult, having the opportunity to learn directly from wisdom keepers and people of similar heritage being willing to educate has been a lifeline for me. With the internet and social media, I’ve been able to cross-pollinate to many groups, as well as to individuals worldwide whom I may not have met as quickly without these tools. We are now able to leverage support and swift communication to, hopefully, help other people who feel disconnected from their ancestry tap into resources for learning and healing. 

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
One way that the community can uplift “Latin” work is to research artists, creators, and community organizers from our Indigenous and Black communities and center them. Focus on people who have been marginalized by a lack of proximity to whiteness, and offer support through purchasing their creations, paying them for their labor, sharing their social media handles and stories, and more. Uplift black and indigenous voices that are also from Latin American countries, regardless if they speak Spanish or “look” the part.

Comunidad Guest DJ: Jennie Hurrieta

(Photo: Courtesy of Alex Landau)
Jennie Hurrieta
Photo provided by guest.

One of the stand out buildings (in my opinion) on Santa Fe Drive is Su Teatro. At first glance, its because of the mural work done by Carlos Fresquez, but en realidad, it's because of what Su Teatro is - which is a hub of Chicano arts and culture. My guest DJ this week is an integral part of Su Teatro, and an all around ANGEL, Jennie Hurrieta. I met Jennie through Denver's music scene, dancing at Pink Hawks and Los Mocochetes shows. Jennie works at Su Teatro, and is an important part of the Chicano community in Denver. Learn more about Jennie, and check out 10 of her favorite tunes below!

What do you do in the Denver community:
I have been working at Su Teatro, a nonprofit Chicano theater company, for about five years doing their finances, as well as running the box office and the internship/work-study program.

Tell me more about your background:
I was born and raised in Denver. My mom's family is from El Paso/Juarez and my dad's family is from Southern Colorado and Michoacán. My family started out in the Westside of Denver but moved toward Littleton when I was around 7; my mom, an educator, wanted us to go to the best schools so off we went to the suburbs. It was hard to be a brown girl in a very white community - I took flight after high school, attended MSU Denver and now I am lucky enough to live back in the Westside just two blocks away from my grandpa and tia's house where my dad grew up. 

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
I am Chicana. I am the hyphen between Mexican-American. With a mother who speaks Spanish and a father who doesn't, I am the brown girl with a smile she hopes might hide the fact that she is only catching half the conversation. I was able to start exploring my Latinidad more in high school when I joined the La Raza Youth Leadership Institute, where I was able to be educated on things that I was completely unaware of, it was a game changer.

Why does representation matter in your community work:
Working at a theater company representation matters because it is important for brown people to see other brown people on stage. Too often have we been left out or cast-typed, but at Su Teatro, a majority - if not all the actors - in each production are brown.  We are able to show the stories of our community, with members of the community. In addition to being a theater company we are also a non-profit. We take on high school and college interns and give them a first look at a career in the arts, something they might not have thought about before, but now have experience to put on their resume. It matters to build up the youth in our community and have representation at all levels.

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
The community can uplift our work, voices and art is through support. Support can come in many ways, through listening, responding, purchasing, showing up, tuning in, offering words of wisdom, I can go on and on. Just don't silence us. 

Follow Jennie on Instagram here.
Follow Su Teatro on Instagram here.

Comunidad Guest DJ: Cal Duran

Cal Duran
Photo provided by guest.

I think the reason why I love Cal's artwork so much is because it's so ancestral - a key part of why he creates in the first place. I knew of Cal's work from long ago, but couldn't pin down why - but it was because he had shown at Pirate Art Gallery when it was still in the Northside, along with one of my closest friends. Today, you can find Cal in the studios at Re:Creative on Santa Fe, and you'll be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months. It's been a real gift getting to connect with Cal - and this playlist he made below? It's blowing my mind. Read more about Cal and check out his playlist below!

What do you do in the Denver community:
Artist, mud brother, connector to the past ones, star seed, and art educator for  a youth after school program at davarts.org

Tell me more about your background: 

I grew up in North Denver . My roots lay deep in the indigenous tribes of Colorado and New Mexico. I started  really focusing on art in high school. Needing to release and escape the moments in my life that felt unsheathed. When I was 17, my art teacher told me to start just applying to galleries in Denver. I also had an amazing mentor, Marie Gibbons - she was a member at Pirate Art Gallery in North Denver, a staple and gem in the community for 30 years. I applied, and got in as the youngest member they had, and I had my own solo show that year. I've been showing, teaching, collabing in the Denver arts community ever since always making sure I have a studio space and reaching out through creation. Art has the ability to heal and connect deeply to our culture and ancestors. 

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
 I identify as Mestizo mixed blood and honor all sides of my ancestors. I didn't really grow up with traditional Latinidad culture. My mom was adopted, and my dad in and out of my life. I had to rely on my intuition and calling from Spirit. Art allows me to tap into the imagination and see my roots clearly. I honor my Spanish side, I honor my Indigenous side, I honor my east Indian side - all of these connect and ride parallel within each other. It's been my journey to see how my cultures relate to each other as we are all Earth keepers of this realm. We just have to embrace it with open arms . 

Why does representation matter in your community work:
I knew when I was young , that I had to share my visions . Stories and images would appear like fast sparkles in my mind, and I'd pick them out and I'd see the stories of my ancestors calling me, guiding me like light in the dark. Art is my voice, visual art is my loud voice. A voice with out words. It is my duty to share my visions with others. Stories that have been stolen, traditions that have been erased. By making sure I create these images constantly and getting them out to the community makes me feel whole. Teaching our youth these same traditions is my legacy. It is important we as Latinidad mentors, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers that we make our presence and light shine now more then ever . If we come together and support one another we can see change. 

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art: 
Support each other, praise one another, be happy for another's success, compliment each other, collaboration, purchasing, listening to each other's stories . Art is  not a competition - I see a lot of drama in our communities; when ego gets involved it causes fear, anger, hurt. If we do more uplifting, and spread our gifts and love we can uplift one another and share our passions.

Follow Cal Duran and his work here:
@volarduran
www.artbycal.com

Comunidad Guest DJ: Alejandro Flores-Muñoz

Alejandro Flores-Muñoz is one of those people that just seems to be doing everything. He's an entreprenuer, helps produce the UndocuHustle podcast, and is an advocate for multiple marginalized groups in our community. His latest endeavor? Or, I should say, endeavors, include a brand new food delivery service, Combi Taco - which is basically a taco truck delivery (mis sueños se han hecho realidad) and a new book, No Papers, No Fear You Can Do Business Here, about being an undocumented entrepreneur, which he is. Alejandro is wholly inspirational. Read more about him, and check out some of his favorite tunes below!

What do you do in the Denver community: 
I'm a seasoned entrepreneur and activist who has made it my mission to advocate for marginalized communities. As an outspoken queer, DACA, Latinx person my life’s work aims to champion for the next generation of intersectional entrepreneurs.

Tell me more about your background:
Brought to the United States by my mother in 1997, I had strong progressive values instilled into him from a young age. I live in Denver, Colorado where I work directly with local agencies and non-profits as one of the leading advocates for the DACA community and sit as the board chair for COLOR Action Fund, and am a Governor appointed board member to the Colorado Minority Business Council. My willingness to be open about his experiences have landed me commentary roles at leading media outlets like CNBC Millennial Money along with a coast to coast speaking tour. I relocated to Denver CO in 2016 after accepting a position as a state-wide director for a progressive electoral campaign. 

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
 Twenty-three years ago, my mom brought my brother and me from Guadalajara to the U.S. in search of a better life. I have her to thank for the opportunities and career I now have. Seeing her in one of her first jobs as a canvasser not only instilled in me a strong work ethic, but the importance of building community power. These traits are what sparked in me my entrepreneurial spirit and are what drive me forward in my business and activism every day. 

But let’s be honest, getting to where I am today hasn’t been easy. As an immigrant and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, I have encountered barriers every step of the way. I persisted with many side hustles to gain a sense of economic security until I could eventually turn one into my main hustle. This journey is one that I want to share with people and I have done that through a how-to guide "No Papers No Fear You Can Do Business Here" I’m sharing my story to help others see entrepreneurship as a viable option for themselves, particularly immigrants and people of color hoping to scale up their businesses.

Why does representation matter in your community work: 
Too often my community is only making enough to survive. I want to create wealth — not only financially, but in terms of opportunities and leadership advancement — to pass down to future generations. I don’t want people to worry about how to pay for college or put food on the table. Instead, I want communities of color to achieve a level of economic independence that makes it easier for us to fight for policies that create meaningful change. Policies will only reflect our needs when we are represented and heard. Only when people of color and immigrants have a seat at the decision-making table with other business owners will we have the power to create and enact policies that truly benefit us, now and in the future. We are committed to meeting the needs of our community; it’s time that people in power give us the opportunity to do so.

Comunidad Guest DJ: Mariah Bottomly

Mariah Bottomly
Photo provided by guest.

This week's Comunidad Guest DJ is such a powerful and amazing woman here in Denver - Mariah Bottomly. It seems that she's everywhere within the community and there's good reason for it - she simply embodies the meaning of comunidad. She's one of the most supportive folks I have ever met, and I'm excited to share her work here this week!

Mariah is not only a photographer, but also a doula and birth worker, but she also carries the medicines and knowledge within the Chicano community. Mostly though, she's a fierce friend to many - and a damn good guest DJ (a mujer after my own heart - when asked to pick 10 songs, she said, "just 10?"). Read more about Mariah and check out 10 songs that inspire her below!

What do you do in the Denver community:
I am an educator, full spectrum doula, ancestral medicine keeper, professional photographer, mama and sister-friend. 

Tell me more about your background:
I am originally from Santa Fe, NM, born and raised. I spent about seven years in San Diego, moved to Albuquerque, NM and eventually found my way to Denver. All of my best friends are poets so, I would frequent poetry shows. I started photographing poets, shows and slam teams in the community. Quickly, I came to find everyone here in Denver is connected in some way, very much like where I grew up in Santa Fe. It is easy for me to navigate through all of the beautiful communities that are Denver.

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
Yo soy Mestiza. My father is from Espanola, NM. I found through my lineage that my ancestors came from Spain, through Mexico and "settled" in Pojoaque, Espanola, and surrounding areas. Some of my ancestors already existed here so, my indigeneity comes from my relatives from the Ohkay Owingeh pueblo, formerly known as San Juan pueblo. My patriarchal ancestry comes from the colonized and the colonizer. (So does my matriarchal side). It has taken some time to embody, move through and heal through all of that. The healing continues. Here in Denver, I have really connected to my ancestral medicines on these lands. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to learn from, practice with and work through some highly revered gente, in all regards, with everything I do. My medicine practice, the way I educate, my art and how I present myself in community is a reflection of this. 

Why does representation matter in your community work:

For hundreds (thousands) of years, my ancestors have had to survive colonization, oppression, genocide and gentrification to ensure that our cultura, remembrance of our sacred ways and our warrior spirits remain intact. Because of this, I have been blessed to work in all my facets, with amazing curanderas, y curanderos, artists, brujxs, activists, danzantes, poetas, y todo. I have had an an extremely strong calling though, to go overseas to connect with my ancestral elders and medicine keepers there. With permission, I want to bring back the medicine and share it with those who connect with it as their own ancestral medicine(s) so that those of European descent will stop commodifying, appropriating, and using medicines, practices and sacred ways that aren't theirs to keep. Don't get me wrong, medicine and healing is for everyone and when it comes down to it, it's all the same, and we are indeed all connected. But, one thing I have noticed in my life and thorough all of my practices, is that a lot of ancestral pain has come from and through spiritual bypassing. It is my responsibility to make sure that I'm able to bring my authentic self in all of these truths. To represent the best way that I have been taught and know how to, is to keep questioning and speaking up when there are micro-aggressions, injustices, questionable and outdated materials and spiritual bypassing, to name a few. To acknowledge and participate in our uprisings, and work dutifully every day in everything I do to ensure that our practices remain intact and sacred.

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
I feel that it is imperative that we create, recognize, and maintain in our commUNITY vessel, not only our past practices, lineages and heritages that connects us all but, we also continue to council, advocate and navigate through all of our beautiful differences.

Comunidad Guest DJ: Desiree Ortega-Stange

Desiree Ortega-Stange
Provided by Guest

This week's Guest DJ from la comunidad is Desiree Ortega-Stange. An Aztec danzante and leader in the Chicano Community here in Denver. I actually met Des when she and her husband held ceremony for some friends who were married by the two. I had seen Des and her family at different community events at La Raza Park and more, so I'm grateful to be able to showcase her community work here this week.

Get to know Des a bit better, and check out her fire playlist below of 10 songs she's inspired by!

What do you do in the Denver community:
I am an 23 year Indigenous Aztec dancer in the Denver community and Licensed massage therapist.

Tell me more about your background:
I am a proud born Denverite born right smack in the middle of Denver just a hop skip and jump from the old Mile High Stadium in the Sun Valley projects which are getting torn down as we speak. I love the Denver community, being involved in community is in my blood coming from a mother who marches with the Chicano Crusades for Justice.

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
I am a proud Chicana/Indigenous woman who has been involved in community since the age of 16, when I joined a group called Semillas se la Manana for young girls who are trying to get out of gangs or avoid joining gangs, and at the time found the Danza (Aztec), and then started my education in my ancestors, and the importance of the youth know where they originate and having pride in that.

Why does representation matter in your community work:
My opinion has always been, as Chicana/ Indigenous woman, to make a direct impact on the community as a whole is to instill in my children this same knowledge and pride in where our ancestors are from and who they were.

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
Again I think the best way to uplift the LatinX/Chicano/Indigenous voice/work and art is through education. All forms - not only school, but in our homes, starting with educating our adults. Latinos supporting Latinos, buying from mom and pop or small businesses ran and owned by Latinos.

Communidad Guest DJ: Franklin Cruz

Franklin Cruz
Photo Provided by Guest

Franklin Cruz is un regalo. Franklin is all around inspiring - I was introduced to them through their poetry (which has made me cry real tears), and then the breadth of amazing work they do kept showing up. A danzante. An educator al museo (what!? Dream). And they're just amazingly sweet and fun. I'm excited to share with you Franklin Cruz!

What do you do in the Denver community:
I'm a science educator at the Museum of Nature and Science, a spoken word artist, dancer, emcee and writer. 

Tell me more about your background:
I first got introduced to the Denver community through a friend who took me to my first open mic and slam with the youth organization Minor Disturbance. After that I worked my way into the adult scene and then into dance. I was studying biology the whole time and later worked that into my art. It just caught people's eye and I started being invited to share in different spaces, mainly with Latinx, LGBTQ and immigrant communities. 

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
My family is from Mexico and we come from Raramuri and Pima people from the northern part of Chihuahua in the North of Mexico. I identify as an Indigena Mexicana now as I discover more of my roots. 

Why does representation matter in your community work:
Representation in my work is creating spaces for visibility without erasure. Often there are communities being removed from sight to appease a larger discriminatory preference like with LGBTQ and immigrant communities. When represented authentically these communities have demonstrated their large capacity for affecting positive social change. 

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
Language inclusivity, many communities don't speak English as the language of their heart. Organizations like the community language cooperative help in making spacing more inclusive to both presenters and audience by giving access to non-English speakers to be understood and to understand the context they are in with ease and they work with community. This will expand the audience and talent pool we can share with. 

Comunidad Guest DJ: Raven Porteous-Mena

Raven Porteous Mena of East High School & Por Vida
Provided by guest.

Las mujeres en la comunidad son inspiracional. Especially in education. Especially when they run their own small business on top of that. Such is the case with my guest DJ this week, Raven Porteous-Mena. I followed her small business, Por Vida, on Instagram and loved that she was creating goods celebrando la cultura - and helping out the community in the process. That's a key component to her work in education as well.

Read more about Raven - and check out 10 songs she loves - below!

What do you do in the Denver community: 
I am the Dean of Students at East High school, I focus a lot on our community youth, social emotional learning, educational equity for our Black and Brown students, and incorporating art into mental health treatments and behavioral outlets.

 Tell me more about your background: 
I am a first-generation person in the USA, my parents are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. I was originally born in Houston, Texas. Moved throughout the West from New Mexico to California and finally settled in Denver, Colorado, when I was 5 years old. I got heavily involved in the Denver Community as a 19-year-old College student at MSU Denver. My involvement started with an organization called Journey Through our Heritage run by Dr. Renee Fajardo, focusing on community education programming, Cultura, Art and Latino History. I fell in love with the game and at 29 years old, I never left.
 
Tell me more about your Latinidad:
 I am Latina, Mestiza if you will. These are my people, my tribe. With such strong roots in Yucatan, Mexico, where all my family still lives, to Spain, where I have a grandmother, to the the wild west, these are lands my ancestors worked. The Latina/o community here in Denver feels like home.
  
Why does representation matter in your community work:
 Representation is SO IMPORTANT IN EDUCATION. Students of color are swept under the rug or pumped into a pipeline to jail every day in our education system. School choice has segregated out communities creating vulnerable pockets in our society. Representation for these students is necessary to navigate a system that wasn’t built for them. Without representation the 1946 case of Mendez v. Westminster prohibiting segregation in California’s public schools would not of been possible. The activism of Cesar Chavez and Corky Gonzales was representation that to this day its ripple effects are coating our community. Representation is needed for the safety and success of our minority students. This also goes for the Art scene in Denver too, representation is needed not only in street murals but in art administration as well for equity. Sit on a board, make our voices be heard, take control of the narrative because we are all still here and need a strong voice in Denver art and education.
 
What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art: 
Curate Art Shows, share our posts, come to our events promote your favorite Latin owned business and brand. Shop local, I guess what I am saying is as a community my success will help your success, we are all connected so supporting each other through it all will create a stronger sense of talent, service, art, family, love and community

Follow Raven Porteous-Mena and her work here:
@por.vida.mija
@kissin_the_sky

Comunidad Guest DJ: Alicia Cardenas

(Courtesy of Denver Human Services)
Alicia Cardenas of Sol Tribe Tattoo & Body Piercing
Provided By Guest

Continuing Especial's celebration of Latin Heritage Month, I present to you Alicia Cardenas. She is la jefa y la chingona artista at Sol Tribe Tattoo & Body Piercing on South Broadway, she's a muralist who - this year alone - has walls featured for the Crush and Babe Walls Festivals, and a leader in the Denver Chicano community.

Learn more about Cardenas here, and check out 10 songs she's inspired by below!

What do you do in the Denver community:
I am an artist , local business owner and community organizer.

Tell me more about your background:
I am a Denver Native who has owned a business for 23 years. I am a traditional Aztec dancer and performance artist.

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
I am a Chicanative (combo of Mexican American and Native American) I am cihuatl yoatl - Woman warrior.

Why does representation matter in your community work:
Representation is everything. Especially for women, queer people and Native Mexican Americans. I feel a great responsibility as a mother to make a world where my child can show up and be appreciated. Seeing a woman's perspective through art is an important part of getting the balance back from a patriarchal society.

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
More visibility always with more specifics on the different groups within the " Latino" heading ... Those of us that are a mix of both Native North and Central American ancestry, Mestizo, Native American from the pueblos of the Southwest. Not grouping all People of Color together. Give us a chance to create art in public spaces.

You also create music, tell me more about that:
I am a traditional Aztec percussionist which includes large drums, Teponatzlis (Aztec wooden percussion instrument) , hand held drums and string instruments including a Concha (Similar to a Mandolin). All these instruments are parts of ancient ceremony and not necessarily for entertainment, they are an important part of reclaiming the ancestral knowledge of our people. You can find me playing in ceremonies but rarely in performance. 

Alicia Cardenas Guest DJ (Playlist):

Follow Cardenas and her work here:
@soltribemama
@soltribe
soltribetattoo.com

Comunidad Guest DJ: Robert Castro

Robert Castro of Ultra 5280
Provided by Guest

For Latin Heritage Month, I wasn't sure what else I wanted to do - after all, Especial is a weekly celebration of Latin-made music. So, I decided I wanted to take to la comunidad. Denver is, of course, rich with la gente, and I wanted to highlight a few folks from around town who are making things happen outside of music here in town.

First up, Robert Castro - photographer, jefe at Ultra5280, and all around good guy, especially when Team Mexico is in the World Cup (we have shared in the splendor!). Learn more about Castro here, and check out 10 songs he's particularly inspired by below!

What do you do in the Denver community:
I am the Editor in Chief of the online entertainment magazine Ultra5280. We focus on our local scene as a priority and help artist to help promote their projects.

Tell me more about your background:
I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and moved to Colorado in 2005. After moving here I took two of my passions music and photography and started up a music website, which has now expanded to cover all areas of entertainment in Denver such as art, food and wine, and of course music. I studied Sports Industry and Operations and Marketing at Metro State, and the similarities between sports and music are very similar as to the end product is basically entertainment.

Tell me more about your Latinidad:
As a Hispanic owner of my magazine (which is an official LLC) I have a chance to focus on our Latinx community and help promote their art whether it’s a new album they are releasing to a new menu from a chef, to an amazing art exhibit. My goal has always been to put my community first and give them a means to help promote themselves in a way that is hard to do (especially in our current situation).

Why does representation matter in your community work:
Not only do I help promote these artist with our publication, but I also provide guidance on how to submit their material for inclusion in press. It could be anything from helping them with photography for their promo, how to create an effective electronic press kit, as well as putting them in touch with the right people. Having done this for over 15 years I have established a networking channel to make sure the they are receiving anything I can give them in order to help succeed. We also help support certain non-profits such as Youth on Record by working with a variety of their artist and charitable efforts.

What is one way the community can uplift Latin work/voices/art:
Community plays a huge role in the success of these artist. While we are going through a pandemic and much of the arts are suffering it is important to channel other ways to support artist. One that has been particularly effective is buying the artist music, merchandise, donating on their live streams, promoting their art through one’s social media. We learn to adapt and while we face an uphill battle to get back to were we once where, it is still important to use these means as a away to keep these works of art still thriving.

Follow Castro and his work here:
@castro_denver
@ultra5280