Sí se puede!

Celebrants honor Cesar Chavez with food, dancing

Nearly 250 gathered at a VFW hall near Sloan Lake on March 27 to celebrate the legacy of Cesar Chavez at the third annual dinner-dance sponsored by the local council of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

Jeannie Raiola, left, Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, Corinne Villa and Carol Giampaolo are all smiles at the Cesar Chavez Day dinner and dance.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“It’s to honor Cesar Chavez’s method of nonviolent protest and nonviolent means to make change,” said Brynn McKenna, LCLAA secretary and one of the dinner’s chief organizers. She said the Cesar Chavez Day celebration has helped put the local LCLAA on the map after a handful of Latino and union activists revived the organization a few years ago.

The event — this year featuring tamales and green chile for dinner and Denver band Divercity playing hours of music from Latin favorites to polkas — is the local LCLAA’s major fundraiser. This year’s dinner also brought in money to bolster a scholarship honoring legendary Colorado union organizer Tim Flores.

Before the band turned up the funk, LCLAA officials handed out awards to area activists who embody the ideals of Chavez, whose March 31 birthday is an optional state holiday in Colorado:

Rosalie Lovato, left, Sheila Lieder, Sen. Michael Bennet, Corinne Villa and Joyce Sisneros smile for the camera.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

• The People’s Award went to former state Rep. Val Vigil, D-Thornton, for championing legislation to allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition rates at Colorado colleges and universities when he was a lawmaker. “Even though the law hasn’t passed,” McKenna said, “it’s an important cause and he’s always stood behind it.”

• The Fred Ross Sr. Award, named for a Chavez associate, went to Minsun Ji, executive director of El Centro Humanitario. The award honors “the person who can get the job done,” McKenna said.

• The Cesar E. Chavez Award went to Rights for All People executive director Lisa Duran. “This award is for a person who modeled herself after (Chavez),” McKenna said. “Lisa has been toiling away for years doing what she does and never gives up.”

DNC Executive Committee member and former Denver City Council President Ramona
Martinez, left, Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez, and Denver Public School Board member Andrea Merida celebrate Cesar Chavez Day.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

The hall was filled with activists, union organizers and politicians from all levels of government, including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and his Democratic primary challenger, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who arrived within minutes of each other after dinner and then stayed for hours shaking hands.