Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lalo and Eumelia C. de Baca, Community Leaders

“Cabeza de Vaca, head of the cow,” Lalo C. de Baca explained. “That’s the full name. There was a Spanish explorer named Alvar Cabeza de Vaca who spent about six years living with the Indians in New Mexico in the 1500s and we’re related to him. Of course, our name has shrunk from Cabeza de Vaca to Cabeza de Baca, C. de Baca and Baca. My dad’s uncle, Ezequiel C. de Baca, was governor of New Mexico in 1917. So we’ve been here awhile.
Born in 1919 on a small farm near Las Vegas, New Mexico, Lalo grew up in a family that included three girls and three boys. "We raised corn, beans and cows and it was real hard work...we were really poor but everyone else was too."
Like his Spanish ancestors, Lalo left his home in search of opportunity, arriving in Denver in 1936, and working a variety of temporary and seasonal jobs before joining the National Guard. His unit was mobilized in 1940, and he served in Fort Sill, Oklahoma during World War II.
1942 was a year of milestones, with Lalo being discharged from the Army, beginning a job at Swift & Company and marrying his childhood sweetheart, Eumelia Medina. Lalo and Eumelia would have seven daughters and one son, and instill in them a love for their Spanish heritage and culture.
Lalo moved his family moved to Globeville in 1960, "I bought the house on Sherman Street from Caspar Yeada because I could walk to work. I could walk everywhere I needed to go."
Lalo and Eumelia got involved in their new neighborhood right away. "I thought we ought to have light here on the street so I went to Public Service and got them to put it in." And Eumelia created a neighborhood watch, going from house to house to promote the program and wearing a whistle in case she was bothered by gang members. Lalo remembered, "There were some tough kids in the neighborhood at that time." Lalo and Eumelia became active in the Globeville Civic Association, battling the city's efforts to turn Globeville into an industrial area, and fighting the placement of halfway houses in nearby Denargo Market. There would be bigger battles ahead.
In 1997, Lalo, Eumelia and 390 of their neighbors filed a lawsuit against the the American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO, for contamination of the south side of Globeville. The company settled before the case even went to trial, agreeing to pay $12 million dollars to homeowners, renters and attorneys, and clean up the area south of I-70. 
A lot has happened in Globeville since the settlement. The south side of Globeville was eventually remediated, neighbors were compensated and the ASARCO site has been cleaned and redeveloped into warehouse space.
Eumelia passed away in 2003 and Lalo in 2014, but they are remembered in Globeville. C. de Bacas are held up as examples of persistence, caring for their community and the power of individuals to battle the city and a multinational corporation. They leave eight children, seventeen grandchildren, eighteen great grandchildren, four great great grandchildren, and a community that is grateful for their service.
* Between 1528 and 1536 Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca traveled between Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. An exciting account can be found by Tony Horwitz, “A Voyage Long and Strange. Rediscovering the New World” 2008 Henry Holt and Company LLC.

 Eumelia and Lalo C. de Baca

Thursday, April 26, 2018

John Zapien - Community Activist

Maybe its his oversized voice or his intense personality, but John Zapien seems much larger than he is. Although he has never been elected to public office, Zapien has been a force of nature in Globeville, representing residents concerns almost as soon as he arrived in 1958.
“Im originally from Kansas City in an area thats a lot like Globeville. A lot of Croatian, Serbian, Polish and Belgian. Im the only one in my family who lives in Colorado, courtesy of Uncle Sam. When I first moved to Globeville, I worked construction and then got on at Wilson Meatpacking.” Both construction and meatpacking were seasonal and when Zapien left Wilson, he went to work as a paralegal for the Model Cities Program (part of Lyndon Johnsons Great Society and War on Poverty Program). The program gave participants a crash course in “Poverty Law,” which Zapien used to battle a proposed rendering plant (PepCol) along Washington. The application for the plant was denied and led to the health departments regulation of industry odors. “That had never been done before,” Zapien remarked.
In 1974, Zapien was appointed by Joe Shoemaker, Chairman of the Platte River Development Committee (PRDC), to work with committee members to revitalize the polluted waterway. Without city funds and no legal authority, Zapien used his persuasive methods to get polluters (including the city of Denver) to not only cease dumping, but to clean up their immediate area. In 1976, the PRDC became The Greenway Foundation and its 100 miles of riverside trails and parks are a testament to the early efforts of the organization.
In 1975, Zapien and Globeville neighbors battled the Denver Planning Boards goal of letting the  neighborhood “evolve into an industrial area. Zapien is remembered for inviting the Board to a meeting in the community, then presenting a meat cleaver to them for “carving up Globeville.” The Board withdrew the plan in 1977.
Zapiens theatrical antics have garnered some criticism, but his unorthodox methods have also produced results, including the defeat of a proposed medical incinerator, the removal of an unwanted homeless shelter, and increased voter registration.
Residents of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea (GES) trust Zapien to stand up for them. And so he does. As the only Voting Community Member of the 13-member board of the National Westerns Center,  Zapien remarked, “This is the best chance our neighborhoods have in moving forward and we are all excited for the educational, cultural and economic opportunities this campus will bring our community.” The communities are counting on Zapien, and by whatever tactics are necessary, he will be their voice.
 John Zapien, Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Monday, March 26, 2018

Reverend Jan Mucha, St. Joseph's Polish Church in Globeville

Father Jan Mucha first came to St. Joseph's Polish Church in 1970 while visiting relatives in the United States. Parishioners liked the young Polish priest and asked him to stay. Mucha accepted their invitation, assisting the pastor, Father Fraczkowski, and assuming the pastorate in January, 1974, after the death of Fraczkowski. 
Under Father Mucha's pastorate, the parish embraced its Polish traditions - the Saturday blessing of Easter baskets, and the Corpus Christi procession through the Globeville neighborhood. Masses were celebrated in both English and Polish. Father Mucha completed a full restoration of the church in time for the parish’s 75th anniversary in 1977 and presided over the 100th anniversary of the parish in 2002. After the fall of Communism, Father Mucha welcomed a new generation of Poles, who brought traditions like the Krakowiacy Polish dancers, Polish food festivals and language lessons in the school.
Father Mucha seemed to exude joy - he genuinely enjoyed his calling, his parishioners and his small parish in an urban neighborhood. In July 2010, Father Mucha retired to Mullen Home where he remained until his passing on March 21st, 2018. Visitation will be held Tuesday, March 27th, at 1:00 pm, followed by a Rosary at 2:00 pm at Mullen Home, 3629 W. 29th Avenue, Denver 80211.
Visitation, also on Tuesday, March 27th,5:00 pm, followed by a Rosary at 6:00 pm at St. Joseph's Polish Church, 517 E 46th Avenue, Denver 80216. Funeral Mass Wednesday, March 28th, 10:00 am at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Burial at Mt Olivet.
Sign the condolence book at 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Fences and gates in Globeville

Globeville has been around for more than a century and a walk through the neighborhood is almost like viewing an archaeological site: remnants of every stage of its development are still visible. Before the 1880s, the prairie north of Denver was grassland, sparsely settled by American-born farmers and homesteaders. With the arrival of the railroads, three large smelters, factories, foundries, brickyards and meat packers, the area evolved into an industrial town populated by immigrants. The newcomers built what they could afford on tiny lots, often using railroad lumber purchased from the Burlington shops. Property was hard to come by in the old country and the settlers from eastern Europe and Russia took great pride in owning a home.
Once the house was built, owners would build a fence to keep livestock out and the children in the yard. Many of those iron fences and gates remain - sturdy reminders of those proud pioneers.

Beautiful ironwork, flagstone sidewalks
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

A heritage rose hugs and old fence
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Richter Iron Works, a foundry at 32nd and Blake
Photo ® Mary Lou Egan

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Community Activist - Sarah Wolf

“The highways ruined Globeville,” Sarah Wolf explained.“Before the highways, Globeville was the best place in the world. We had people from all over the world - Austrians, Swedes, Germans, Russians, Polacks, Irish and one black family - and we all got along.” 
For years, rumors about construction of interstate highways were whispered and debated. In 1950, the Valley Highway (I-25) sliced off the western edge of the neighborhood, and in 1960 work began on I-70, the east-west thoroughfare that cut through the heart of the community. Battling the Valley Highway led to Sarahs first experience fighting the city.  
“We had meetings at St. Jacobs Hall, at churches, businesses and at city hall. When its your home, you have to stand up. The neighbors even hired lawyers, but the decision to build the freeways through Globeville had been made long ago. Construction began and many long-time residents moved away. Not Sarah Wolf. I was born in this house. 
The house was built by her father, John Wolf. Sarah had a faraway look in her eyes.“My dad worked for the Globe Smelter for a dollar a day, using a wheelbarrow to move ore around. He worked nights, and during the day, he built this house. As soon as he saved a little money, he sent for other family members from the old country. My dads family and my mothers family were all here and we all lived on Leaf Court.
“When they were in Russia, they had no say about their lives and had to answer to the czar. In this country, my dad, a poor immigrant, was elected a trustee of Globeville. He really liked having a say in making his town a good place to live. 
Sarah inherited her fathers pride in his community as well as his talent for organizing. When plans to enlarge the Mousetrap were revealed in the mid 1970s, ramps to the neighborhood had been eliminated. Sarahs voice rose. Globeville would be cut off. There would be no access for the people who live here, fire trucks and ambulances would take longer to answer calls, and trucks would have to go through the neighborhood to get to their plants. 
We held meetings at the churches, the lodges and the Globeville Civic Association. I persuaded the presidents of Noble Sysco and Anheuser Busch to write letters, and I got Councilmen Eugene DiManna and State Representative Ted Bendelow involved.” 
The letters and meetings paid off.
A bridge at 48th Avenue to the Pecos Street interchange was built and dedicated on August 30, 1978. Shortly after the bridge opened, Sarahs neighbors petitioned the city to have the bridge named in her honor. In 1988, their wish was granted by Mayor Federico Peña. A bronze plaque that read Sarahs Bridgewas embedded in the base on the east side. The plaque represents much of what Sarah believed: that in America, an immigrant can make good, that persistence can prevail, and that the city government can be held accountable to all its citizens.   

The family of John Wolf about 1914.
Front row, left to right, Grandfather Peter Wolf, David,
John Wolf Sr., Sarah, Ann Marie (nee Kilthau).
Standing, left to right, Christine, Katherine, Adam, John and Hulda.
Used with written permission from Sarah Wolf.

Dedication ceremony, August 30, 1978
Left to right, Manager of Public Works Harold Cook,
Councilman Sal Carpio, Sarah wolf and Councilman Larry Perry.

Used with written permission from Sarah Wolf.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Carpio Sanguinette Park

Pioneers. When brothers William and Louis Sanguinette arrived in 1876, the area was open prairie, populated by the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and scattered homesteaders. The brothers were soon joined by their father Peter, who purchased 10 acres of land from homesteader William H. Clark, and began building a home for their large, extended family. (Louis and his wife Mary had 14 children). Smelters and railroads built into the region and other settlers found work, built homes and incorporated their growing village, naming it Globeville.
Sanguinettes raised enough vegetables, turkeys and chickens to support themselves and to sell to local markets, delivered by horse and wagon and later by truck. But low crop prices during the Depression crippled farmers and, in 1936, the family sold part of their property to the City of Denver for a sewage treatment plant. Many members of the large family moved away as larger industries, trucking companies, and salvage lots took over the area.
Another pioneer associated with Globeville is Sal Carpio, the first Hispanic to represent District 9 on Denver’s City Council. Carpio served three terms on city council and gave a voice to the district’s growing Hispanic community. He led the Denver Housing Authority from 1994 to 2007 and helped bring low-income housing options to the city. Carpio was also known as a teacher and mentor. “He knew city politics about better than anyone else,” said former two-term Denver Mayor Federico Peña, who met Carpio in 1973. “I consider him to be the brightest mind in city politics at the time.” Sal Carpio died September 25, 2014 at the age of 73. 1.
Use of the sewage plant was discontinued in 1966 and the area weathered neglect and abuse until 1999, when the city transformed the site into a 13-acre park. The legacy of former plant remained, with the large concrete forms that once treated wastewater painted with graffiti murals.
Residents referred to the park as “Northside Park,” but wanted to find a name that honored the history of the neighborhood. On October 9, 2017, Denver City Council voted unanimously to name the park Carpio-Sanguinette Park to honor two pioneers, Sal Carpio and the Sanguinette family.

 Sanguinette Farm. Members of the family remain in Globeville.
Photo used with written permission from Nora  Landberg

Looking west. Photos ® Mary Lou Egan 

1. Denver Post, September 27, 2014