“There were no books available with our history and culture, nor was there imagery”, says Adrianna Abarca, recalling her school days in North Denver in the’70s and early ‘80s. “The majority of us in North Denver were Mexican American or Mexican, but through our education we were deprived of our cultural identity including the use of Spanish as a second language.”
Today, Abarca is making up for that void in her school education. Walk into the retail store, Hijos del Sol (Children of the Sun) a part of the Latino Cultural Arts Center, located at 2715 W. 8th Ave. in Denver, and you are emersed in culture, art, color, and lots of books on culinary arts, visual arts, performing arts, music, and the Spanish written word. The store supports artisans throughout the Americas. Says Abarca, “We support them so they can continue to be creators of handmade items so that those traditions aren't lost.”
Photo: Adrianna Abarca, founder & board chair of the Latino Cultural Art Center (LCAC)
Abarca also is the founder and board chair of the Latino Cultural Art Center (LCAC), based in Denver. They have raised 80 percent of the funding for the community visual and media arts space off 12th Avenue and I-25 that is projected to open in 2024. The future cultural campus will include a Mexican heritage museum that will house the Abarca Family Collection of Chicano and Mexican folk and fine art and a library. She says it’s the biggest compilation in the Rocky Mountain region.
Abarca has her immigrant father to thank for her love of Mexican art and cultural. He regularly accompanied his family on trips to Mexico and took Abarca to the art openings of local Chicano artists so she could develop an appreciation of her heritage. Because of that exposure, “I made the decision work with artists,” says Abarca.
“I lived in San Francisco at the height of the Chicano/Mexicano art scene. She worked at an art gallery and the Mexican Museum. “I was so inspired by what they had going on verses what we had going on, back in Denver. They were light years ahead of us, and I wanted to bring some of that back home.”
Abarca returned to Denver, where she and her father started having conversations about what they could do for our community to enhance the Latino cultural arts. He passed away soon after, but Abarca kept their passion alive. In addition, Abarca advocates in schools, history and art museums, insisting on representation for the Latino community. “As a marginalized community and as taxpayers, we’re tired of being excluded”, says Abarca. “Everybody needs to have an identity and everyone needs to belong. That’s why I try to offer outlets to develop a strong cultural identity and a strong sense of self.”