Saturday, September 22, 2012

Staggering down las calles de Denver's Northside

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

Three Chicanos who live and practice their arts in Denver: a retired factory worker, now artist and music aficionado; a former practicing lawyer turned novelist; a formerly employed bilingual teacher who sculpts his gardens and fiction.

Thursday night we walked the blocks of what natives call the Northside. The gentry, developers and transplants have taken out much of its culture, much as they take out weeds from their yards and the characteristic architecture of the neighborhood homes to replace them with foo-foo plants and minimalist houses. So, we walk the blocks, commenting on our loss and deriding the substitutions.

The second floor apartments on 32nd & Zuni where mexicano families once could afford to live and send their niños to neighborhood schools to learn to read and write in their native language are now hundred thou condos where Spanish is much less heard, if at all. The former residents relocated to outlying areas where rent is cheaper and instruction their kids receive now all in English.

The flat-roofed buildings that once housed bars where one of our fathers and a father-in-laws drank themselves into alcoholism and exchanged stories of cómo era when they grew up in the San Luis Valley or crossed over looking for more than just cantinas with cold beer and pool tables.

The old tequila bar that served the best chorizo con huevos breakfast and where you could order obscure tequilas for less than half the price of the yuppie establishments that sit there now with no Spanish speakers to speak of and food prices that make you wish you weren't hungry. The former bar owned by relatives of a Jalisco distillery family who succumbed to a lavish purchase offer that ousted one of the best places to compose fiction on a Saturday morning.

The Anglos passing by us, wondering quien sabe qué about us, some not daring to look up from the dog they're walking nor respond to a hello, no matter that the only difference between the three of us and gringo drunks who'll later pepper the sidewalks are our physical features.

A plethora of restaurants/bars overloaded with customers with too much discretionary funds, too much searching for identity and culture in an area they helped strip of the same.

Multi-stored structures marring the skies with the bareness of concrete and glass where once stood brick homes with families, children who were sent to public, not charter or private schools, where the music of quinceañeras and birthdays formerly rang out on weekends, and now thousand dollar bikes and BMWs mutely sit on patios or out front.

The old, Chicano bar-Italian restaurant still open. Still serving cheap drinks and its neo juke box blaring oldies. A kitchen fire and fire alarm end a brief stay.

We walk the sidewalks, the three of us. Admitting some benefits of progress, though much of that is limited to one day being in a position to sell our houses for much more than we paid and then being in the position of leaving what once was.

We talk of places and times and remember-whens; we drink more, but not enough. Celebrating recent individual accomplishments; wishing each other well and future luck. We can't do the same for the old Denver Northside. The name itself has been taken from us, regurgitated as a string of truncated labels more descriptive of the money entering the area, the overpopulation of drinking places, the higher income levels of the encroaching gentry.

We had a good time anyway. Because we know more andnot simply about the history  of this area. We experienced things here that stay with us, in our artwork and literary works. We still feel it. Live it. Lamenting the changes doesn't change that.

Es todo, hoy

1 comment:

nancylcommins said...

I think this deserves a wider Denver audience - maybe to the Post or Westword....