Viva la raza.
Such was the rallying cry of the Chicano movement in the 1960s and ’70s and now, a park in Denver’s Sunnyside will serve as a constant reminder of that effort.
Denver City Council unanimously voted Monday night to rename Columbus Park as La Raza Park.
For sponsoring Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, whose district covers the park, the site has always been called by its new name and it was about time for the moniker to be made official, she said.
“‘La raza is a word of unity and about celebrating community,” Sandoval said, fighting back tears.
Aside from one resident who said he was opposed to the renaming and that it detracts from the local Italian-American community, all others spoke in favor of the change during public comment.
“Mexican Chicanos and Indigenous peoples have suffered genocide over the last 500 years,” said Arturo Gonzalez, who said he is a retired Chicano studies professor. “We live with that trauma. We continue to live with that trauma.”
Not only is the renaming a success and nod to the Chicano and Civil Rights movements, but it also corrects what many see as an error in naming the park after Christopher Columbus in the first place. Increasingly, Columbus’ very name serves as a painful reminder for many of his — and this country’s — history of colonialism and violence against Indigenous people.
The renaming isn’t the first for Denver and it certainly adds to a growing trend across the country. This summer, city officials renamed the Stapleton neighborhood as Central Park because the original name came from a former mayor and Ku Klux Klan member.
Council also unanimously approved a landmark designation Monday night for Smith’s Chapel, the former church at 910 Galapagos St. That site served as a hub for the local Chicano movement as well.
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