Westwood Summer Fiesta celebrates culture, connects to resources

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Posted Sun, Jun 1, 2014

Citlali Trejo paints 5-year-old Edna Juarez's face at the Westwood Summer Fiesta on May 21.  Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Citlali Trejo paints 5-year-old Edna Juarez’s face at the Westwood Summer Fiesta on May 21. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

DENVER — The second annual Westwood Summer Fiesta held May 31 celebrated the neighborhood’s diverse local culture and connected residents with community resources.

It featured food with a local flair, activities for kids, community groups and not-profits, Denver Fire Department representatives and lively music and dance.

It was sponsored by Jesus of Nazareth Compassion Ministries, a branch of Iglesia Gracia Y Vida at 4201 W. Kentucky Ave. in Denver.

Fiesta organizer and pastor of Iglesia Gracia Y Vida, Scott Carranza, said 100 percent of the students at a nearby school qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, a strong indicator of poverty. The area includes three trailer parks and may have up to 50 percent immigrants.

“There’s a huge need in this neighborhood,” Carranza said.

Denver firefighter Jeff Swanson discusses fire safety with two girls attending the Westwood Summer Fiesta May 21.  Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Denver firefighter Jeff Swanson discusses fire safety with two girls attending the Westwood Summer Fiesta May 21. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

The fiesta was an opportunity to help the community to learn about resources.

Resources like Lunchbox Express, a Jewish Family Service program that provides free lunches to kids in the summer. Allen Levy of Lunchbox Express said many of the local kids who qualify for free or reduced price school lunches go without lunch when school is out.
He was on site to hand out fliers with their summer delivery schedule.

Westwood Unidos, a group that seeks to unify Westwood community based organizations, handed out information on neighborhood services and activities. Westwood Unidos Community Connector, Mariacruz Herrera, said they work to provide a safe environment and help people learn of volunteer opportunities in the neighborhood, including an educational program where residents not only learn skills, but learn how to teach others those skills.

Community organization, Westwood Unidos, shares information about community services and opportunities at the Westwood Summer Fiesta May 21.  Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Community organization, Westwood Unidos, shares information about community services and opportunities at the Westwood Summer Fiesta May 21. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

Andrea Chiriboga-Flor, transit organizer for 9to5, an activist group that campaigns for policy changes to benefit working women, talked with residents about transit options in Westwood. She said many transit decisions are made with little resident input, and 9to5 is working to change that.

Chiriboga-Flor said bus routes are important in places like Westwood because not everyone can afford a vehicle, and not all have valid driver’s licenses. However, with the new light rail line, she said, the RTD’s emphasis has shifted away from bus service. Yet, the light rail line is geared toward well-off riders in outlying areas traveling to the center of the city. Not everyone needs to go to the center of the city, Chiriboga-Flor said.

Agatha Strompolos of Aurora volunteered as a portrait artist. Strompolos said her experience creating watercolor renderings as an interior designer gave her the skills to draw from to make portraits of kids at the fiesta. It was a way for her to give back to the community.

Upbeat music was provided by the groups Angeles del Ciela and Boaz, who performed jointly throughout the fiesta.

Latin American dance group, Sambos Illimani Colorado USA, performed Tinko, Caporales and other traditional Bolivian folk dances in colorful costumes.

Marco Fernandez, National Coordinator of Bolivian folk dance group, Sambos Illimani Colorado USA, dances at the Westwood Summer Fiesta on May 21. Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Marco Fernandez, National Coordinator of Bolivian folk dance group, Sambos Illimani Colorado USA, dances at the Westwood Summer Fiesta on May 21. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

National Coordinator for Sambos Illimani Colorado USA, Marco Fernandez, said the bells on his legs represented slave chains and freedom from slavery. Fernandez is originally from La Paz, Bolivia, where in colonial times, both indigenous Bolivians and Africans were enslaved to work in the Potosi mines.

Carranza said Iglesia Gracia Y Vida and Jesus of Nazareth Compassion Ministries are two of the three charitable organizations he operates in Westwood, one of Denver’s three poorest neighborhoods. He said the third, Academia Mauricio Saravia includes an after-school program that teaches the arts and sports to kids and will feature a summer program.

Learn More –

• Lunchbox Express

• 9to5

• Academia Mauricio Saravia

• Westwood Unidos

• Iglesia Gracia Y Vida

• Jesus of Nazareth Compassion Ministries

About Melanie J. Rice

Melanie Rice is a journalism student at MSU Denver, with an emphasis on both visual and written content.

View all posts by Melanie J. Rice

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