Clorinda Trujillo visited the beauty shop to have her hair set on days of the dances at VFW Post 501. Later, she’d don one of her special dresses, slip into a pair of dancing shoes, dab on perfume, and offer her arm to her husband Salomon. The two looked good, felt good, smelled good. They’d arrive early at the VFW to secure a table for the friends and family they’d invited to join them. Whether a live band or DJ, there was always music to dance to. Often, they found themselves enjoying a favorite: La Varsoviana, a dance originating in mid 1800’s Europe and eventually becoming popular worldwide, including in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The Trujillo’s must’ve danced La Varsoviana hundreds of times in their 78 years together.
North Denver is home to a handful of centenarians, and this one—Clorinda Trujillo—turned 101 in November.
Trujillo has lived for 59 years in the orange brick home where she and her husband raised their children Ernie and Karen. She has seen the family through their early days in Denver, first living where the Auraria campus now sits, then off to Tacoma, Washington, for Salomon’s bootcamp prior to his service in WWII. After the war, the Trujillo’s came back to Denver and lived for 15 years in Five Points before settling on Quitman Street in 1961. Raised in Cañoncito, NM, Trujillo’s parents and 4 of her 7 siblings landed in North Denver.
Mrs. Trujillo and her daughter Karen Gonzales appeared on my computer screen to chat by Zoom recently. With each question, daughter turned to mom and smiled. Are there words to describe such a long and full life?
Trujillo is the kind of woman who loved to laugh and sing and meet people. She nurtured her children from the 1940’s through the 70’s, and reprised the role to babysit a grandson in the 1980’s and 90’s. She became known for her spectacular gardens, cooking (her empanadas, enchiladas, and frijoles got special mention) and countless friendships that she has long since outlived. She sang in the Spanish Choir at St. Cajetan’s Church, and was even joined by her daughter one year when Karen was 10. She liked going downtown on the bus (she didn’t drive) and kept busy with family life, connections with neighbors, and her sewing, quilting, and ceramics.
A view from the Trujillo home, tucked between West Colfax Avenue and Dry Gulch—not far from Paco Sanchez Park, will be included in Museo de las Americas upcoming photography exhibition La Nueva Cara / The New Face. The photo depicts houses across the street before they were fenced off and torn down, to be replaced by new construction.
It was a different time and place back then. Paco Sanchez was on Spanish language radio at KFSC-AM. He and other community activists had created Good Americans Organization (GAO) and were hard at work addressing community housing issues. Salomon Trujillo was deep into a long career at Rocky Mountain Arsenal and King Soopers Warehouse. Clorinda Trujillo had put in 11 years with Montgomery Wards in 3 different states: New Mexico, Washington, and Colorado (at Denver’s South Broadway store). The Trujillo children played jacks with friends or cousins. And they slipped away to the nearby gully (now Dry Gulch) for adventures later featured in Gonzales’ memoir “Finding The Lady Llorona,” published in 2018 by The Amagre Review.
Fast forward to 2020, a year that took a toll on Clorinda Trujillo. It first took her soulmate Salomon, at age 103, and then her son Ernie and sister Felonis. When Trujillo herself took a debilitating fall, her daughter moved back into the family home to look after her.
At 101 years old, Trujillo’s days are quiet now, much quieter than those nights years ago on the dance floor at the VFW. But Trujillo still has family by her side, and memories of years laughing and dancing, and the support of a couple of neighbor friends still around from the old days.
Kathryn has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and facilitates a Caregiver Support Group for the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.
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