Hi, My name is Ryan Osborne, I am with a Whole History Group based in Durango, Colorado. We are raising funds to preserve diverse culture and history on the South Side of Durango. We are currently undergoing the eligibility process to have a building historically designated by the State of Colorado to create a community events center and nexus for cultural heritage. Your donations will help us immensely in our research and educational process of honoring the past and our elders, to create a brighter future for our youth.
The Whole History Project
In Spring of 2019 a group of friends invited me to sit and chat with them about the old Spanish Speaking neighborhoods that used to thrive down by the river in Durango, Colorado. Many knew about Santa Rita, or "Parrall" as most people used to call it back then. A lot of people are blown away to hear about "La Planta" by what is now the Powerhouse Science Center. As well as "Chihuahua" or the "Old Westside" which was across the river from La Planta, where Schneider Park is now. From 9th Street Bridge down to the skatepark. There was also "El Poso" in the area surrounding the present train station. Not to mention "Webtown" where my great Tio Rossenaldo was born, where the Doubletree Hotel is now. Working-class people and their families lived in these neighborhoods. Some owned their homes with the land. Some owned their homes and come to find out they didn't own the land. Some rented. All were eventually given the ultimatum of displacement. The move-out date, and what was left were bulldozed. We looked into it more. We wanted to interview the people who lived there. The people who remembered.
In September 2019 we had a gathering of about 30 elders in the old La Paloma Building, at 701 E 2nd Street. Our group pitched in to buy some desserts. Maria's Bookshop let us borrow their chairs. One by one elders entered through the door, let their eyes adjust, and began greeting each other with hugs and handshakes. Some came with pictures, others with different relics of the past. We were so excited we stood by jotting notes fervently. Eventually, we all circled up and the elders began sharing stories one at a time.
One of the stories shared was of the old adobe building itself. Tony Gallegos said that he had read that it was built by a labor union from the San Luis Valley. Nobody else in the room had even heard of that. I asked around town, and a friend came forth with an old Durango Herald article that verified everything Uncle Tony had said, and more. The Labor Union was called the SPMDTU, or Sociedad Mutual De Trabajadores Unidos. It was a safe haven, meeting place, and community support/ mutual aid building for workers of color in primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood. The South Side. To our surprise, the Paloma Building opened up again for sale or lease in 2023.
We had another gathering planned for May 2020, but Covid came first in March, so we postponed. Fast forward to 2022. Another largely Spanish Speaking neighborhood: West Side Trailer Park was facing the same fate as the many displaced neighborhoods before it. The neighborhood itself formed an unrelenting effort to save their community. They formed a neighborhood consortium to buy their homes, matched the down payment necessary, and then the asking price went up. And this time there was even more community support rallying to help save it. Durango citizenry rose up hugely, along with La Plata County and Local First to help out. The neighborhood consortium was able to purchase the trailer park they lived in at the new higher price, and beat out a California Corporation that was most likely to squeeze the community for profits. To us, it represented a tremendous shift in Durango society. Consciousness had risen to a degree, and awareness and the willingness to be aware of the community as a whole had also risen. We took it as a hopeful sign.
We started meeting again. This time we gained some dedicated and devoted researchers who couldn't pull themselves away from it. Kirbie and Jamie solicited a City Arts and Culture grant to create a podcast about it and we started fervently on our research. Other researchers and bibliophiles began to contribute. We pulled from every archive we could find and formally interviewed a handful of former residents of Santa Rita, The old Westside, and the new Westside.
One of our interviewees, Tommy Vigil had been kicked out of Santa Rita and was almost kicked out of the new Westside. He and so many others have so much to say about the earlier days in Durango's history. Fond memories mostly allow our imaginations to time travel and think differently, and larger than ever before about the roads, sidewalks and trails we travel upon. It's almost mesmerizing. We see the buildings and we think of those who built them, and the people who shared stories and lives within. All that went into, all that goes into, forming a community, creating a town.
We truly believe that the community at large would greatly appreciate more access to these stories. At La Paloma, we will have a place to conduct, record, and share these interviews. At present, we have a lineup of people we still need to interview, their grandchildren are reaching out to us to have them interviewed. Slowly we are getting more of a grasp on why things are the way they are, and how they can be improved.
We were extremely fortunate to come across one interviewee, Dr. Charles Cambridge. Mr. Cambridge is part of the first Diné (Navajo) family allowed to live in Durango. Without Charlie, we might have never known that up until the Late Forties, about the time he was born, people from the Diné (Navajo) Nation, were not allowed off of the reservation without consent and paperwork of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As it happens, a local business decided they wanted to sell "Indian Jewelry." Charlie's dad won the Jewelry making competition and was allowed to move his family to present-day Durango, ancestral homelands of the Diné, to work and live as a jewelry maker.
For some time, another group of friends and I, known as the Leaders of Color, had been doing an inventory of businesses owned by people of color in Durango. Not surprisingly, we turned up a disproportionate number, and we were still dismayed. Especially in the Indigenous, small business owner category. Now, after talking to Charlie it was easy to explain this because indigenous people were generally banned from the region until the late '40's. We knew of at least a few Diné people who might want to set up shop and go into business collaboratively, to make it a cultural center, so that's the direction we are headed. We are looking at franchising at least 2 new Indigenous-owned businesses in Durango with the inception of La Paloma Preservation Project.
We envision an actual space, an entire building, a cultural and LGBTQ safe space that has something to offer the community that has for so many decades, centuries even, been overlooked. This building will be by and for people of color in Durango, where we can honor the contributions of our elders as an example to help our young people thrive in their examples. When the health of the most marginalized community members improves, the health of the entire community improves. It's about helping each other. Working together to make things affordable to long-contributing residents, in a booming tourist town, where real estate prices are sky high. It helps to nurture the residents who strive to hold on during the postmodern boom and bust cycles. Mutual aid. Miraculously enough, that was part of the original charter of the old adobe building, constructed in 1931 known as La Paloma - The Dove. An ideal name. The Dove. A symbol of Peace.
Under the banner of La Paloma (Peace), we want to open a coffee shop and sell art. There will also be shelves of non-perishable food for sale by Indigenous agriculturists throughout the region. It will be an events venue where teachers, performance artists, and gatherings will be held. Yoga classes in Spanish and English. We want to go out of our way to curate the local art of youth of color and collectively support their artistic development with the likes of the most visionary artists of the day. It will be a hub of fresh perspective with some of the deepest roots. Like a giant tree many travel to, just to see. This will be a place of presence felt.
More and more people are stepping into their full humanity. It is said that any actions borne of fear, are actions, not quite human. May we all be passed the days of groups who root their actions in fear, preaching scarcity, and taking from, and holding others down for their benefit simply because they are scared there is not enough to go around. Let's acknowledge that there is enough to go around and that we can do a better job of managing it, and sharing it. Let us meaningfully employ the abundance of the earth without hoarding it and letting so much go to waste. Let us re-enfranchise, the sustainable cultures of longstanding, who have had time enough to learn from and remember the long haul past of these immediate lands we all cherish. It is to the benefit of everyone here to tap into the deepest and most earth-nurturing cultures on the planet. And all it takes for all of us who are relatively new here in the last century or so to appreciate is a hush and a listen. To be able to slow down a bit and do so, for almost all of us, would surely be a welcome gift.
It will take a citizenry of people from every background to be able to solve a diverse array of problems. There are more and more groups of people who are coming together to make efforts to make repairs in the fabric and foundation of society. Efforts to convey us all to a healthy future. We would like to thank our friends who have been steadfast supporters thus far: Four Corners Food Coalition, Mountain Monk Coffee, Construyendo Poder, Durango Ecstatic Dance, and Magic City Podcast.
A special thanks also to those who contribute in any shape or form. All the people looking to collaborate and share the space in the future. All the people who are willing to share this link. All the people who come in to get coffee, peruse art, maybe attend a class or event, and all the artists who come to perform and share. We very much look forward to seeing all of you storytellers, and feeling the love that you have for this place. We're pretty sure the time is now, and with all that said, we'll leave it up to you now with this fundraiser. Thank You!