Growing up in the 1970s, Northside meant cruising down Federal on a Saturday Night. In spite of the changing neighborhood, there is comfort in the fact that Chicano culture is alive and well in Northwest Denver. “La Raza Barnum Park Day: A Cruise Down Fedz” celebrated lowriders and cruising in the second annual event. In 2019, Denver City Council unanimously passed a “Cruise Down Fedz” proclamation in support of the history of cruising culture. Council Members Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres continue to bridge and create solidarity between Denver neighborhoods to ensure this rich legacy.
The spirit of the annual cruise is about peace, love, unity and celebrating the Chicano/Chicana culture. It is also shedding light on a bigger purpose. The profound recognition of the forefathers and mothers of the movement that have been working tirelessly since the 1960s to rename Columbus Park, on 38th and Osage Street, to La Raza Park. The effort will honor Chicano heritage and its immense contribution to North Denver. Jolt, a renowned North Denver artist and organizer noted, “The Cruise was on the surface, but the purpose was to rename the park. We want to ensure that this is a commitment to representing our culture and not letting it be whitewashed, buried or forgotten.” He continued, “It’s important to hold a sacred space. Our neighborhood has been gentrified. Those that grew up in the hood feel they can’t be a part of it anymore. We want to hold these public places and make people from the community feel welcome.”
The day was, indeed, peaceful, loving, family-oriented and above all, colorful. It kicked off at Barnum Park with opening prayers by the gloriously decorated Danza Azteca.The riders then revved their engines cruising down “Fedz” for a party at La Raza Park.
A colorful explosion surrounded the curbsides and its centerpiece, Kiosko Plaza de la Raza. Classic car beauties shone in cherry bomb red, electric orange, peacock blue and rich painterly patterns. Brilliantly colored Aztec headdresses, plumes and feathers celebrated North Denver’s indigenous heritage. An exuberant mask-clad breakdance competition created an electric vibe of solidarity. Bringing together brothers and sisters of all colors, B-Boys & B-Girls celebrated the Chicano spirit on stage. Free food fed hundreds of attendees, in part donated by City Council, and a large number of contributors. Sandoval even offered to buy masks for the crowd when giveaways ran out. It was a celebration created within the community for the community.
The event was a pre-celebration of sorts. While it hasn’t officially been renamed yet, Sandoval’s park petition efforts have gotten over 2,000 signatures to move forward. The City has already removed the Columbus Park signs to avoid vandalism. Behind the scenes, other progressive moves for the future of the culture include raising money to put up a sculpture in the park.
Next generation organizers like Jolt, Juan Fuentes and Ben Chavez carry on the torch guided by elders like Emanuel Martinez who attended the event. A longtime activist and artist, he helped rename Lincoln Park to Las Alamas Park, created the Chalk Art Gallery and is featured in the Smithsonian Institute. Martinez’ passion for persisting and creating change for the last 50 years is embraced and carried on by today’s young leaders. Jolt reflects, “It is important to have a space set for future generations where they can break bread together. We want to make sure that by setting the table, friends and families can come to this park, celebrate our culture and always know they have a place at the table.” Viva La Raza!