My (CU) Denver Roots: Then and Now
Grad student Alyssa Lobato shares her story as a descendant of Displaced Aurarians.Sep 22, 2023
Hey there Lynx,
My name is Alyssa Lobato, and I am a graduate student here at CU Denver in the School of Education and Human Development, where I am studying human development, learning, and family sciences. I am a graduate assistant for First Year Experiences in the office of Student Transitions and Family Engagement, and a research assistant in the Geospatial Analysis and Mapping (GAM) Lab on campus. This is my second year as a graduate student, but my connection to this university and campus began far before I was enrolled as a student.
Before the tri-institutional campus establishment we know of today as Metropolitan State University, University of Colorado Denver, and Community College of Denver; Auraria, was one of the first and oldest neighborhoods in Denver. It was home to residential families and businesses tied together in one area. In 1969, a bond issue was passed with the help of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, and as a result, the entirety of the neighborhood was forced to leave. By 1973, hundreds of families were displaced from the community they knew as home. One of those families was mine.
The Torres family, my great-grandparents as well as my grandmother and her siblings lived at 1033 Ninth Street for over 30 years. They attended St. Cajetan’s church and school, administered child care throughout the neighborhood and established the St. Cajetan’s Credit Union. They were actively involved in their community through organizations, such as the Auraria Community Center and simply as considerate neighbors. With the help of Historic Denver and partners, Ninth Street is the only section of the neighborhood that was able to be preserved (as well as St. Elizabeth’s, St. Emmanuel and the Tivoli) and due to this, my family’s home still stands today.
In the 1990’s, the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship acted as one of the first steps of reparation and restorative justice for Displaced Aurarians and their descendants, offering free tuition to programs at any of the three institutions for those living in Auraria from 1955-1973. With special interest and support from faculty and staff of CU Denver and Geography/History departments, individuals such as Chancellor Michelle Marks, CU Regent Nolbert Chavez, Brian Page, Ph.D., Amanda Rees, M.A., Rachel Gross, Ph.D., and more have encouraged partnerships with organizations such as History Colorado to amplify stories and research to maintain the legacy of Displaced Aurarians.
Last fall, I had the privilege to begin working as a research assistant for History Colorado’s Displaced Aurarian Museum of Memory project. I took record of each resident/business and address of those who lived in Auraria for the scholarship time frame. The hope is that by collecting this data and mapping it to structures, the Displaced Aurarian scholarship will be more easily accessible for qualifying students to find required information about their family home. Part of this project, as well as oral history collection, archeological digging, and donated photos make up the Museum of Memory project which was recently unveiled as an exhibit space in the Auraria Library. Currently, I am working in the GAM lab helping to design StoryMaps as part of the Auraria Spatial History Project by Dr. Brain Page and Amanda Rees.
The story of Displaced Aurarians is multifaceted, diverse, and resilient. In essence, Displaced Aurarians personify what it means to be strong family, friendly neighbors, diverse culture, and a supportive community. I feel empowered to walk on this campus as a CU Denver student and descendent of Displaced Aurarians. Lynx, when you walk by the Auraria Library and are looking for study space, walk through the doors and into the ‘I Am Auraria’ museum exhibit. You will learn, remember, and honor their legacy as students.
If you are interested in the Auraria Database, or are a Displaced Aurarian or descendent looking for family information, you can start here.
If you are a Displaced Aurarian or descendent looking for access to the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship, you can start here.