An Open Letter to the Denver Public Library Commission

by Santino J. Rivera on May 14, 2013 in El Now

An Open Letter to the Denver Public Library Commission:

I am writing in response to the so-called “ire” that was reported in the Denver Post regarding the new West Denver library being named after Rodolfo Corky Gonzales.

I am an author/publisher and a Denver native. I am also Chicano. My roots in Denver run deep and though I may live far from the Mile High City now, Denver will always be home.

How can one convey to you in such a limited space how iconic Gonzales is? The man is legend, not just in Colorado but nationally. Though the Chicano/a movement is not what it used to be in Denver, its roots are still there. There are those who would balk at this library – those who would like nothing more than to wipe Corky’s memory from the history books, just as they are trying to do with our books and history in Arizona, despite the fact that these things are as American as anything else. Ignorance speaks volumes.

Chicano/a history is American history!

The current establishment loves to frame the 60’s and 70’s as a time of free spirit and of rebellion but only through their own lens. They revere their own heroes but demonize ours. Chicano/as have our own memories/heroes of that time and they are often hushed by the same establishment, deemed too “radical” because they are not in line with their politics. But people forget…

People have forgotten how the Denver police were found to be racist when they started beating high school girls with their batons during a demonstration at the park across the street from West High School. People have forgotten how the Denver Public School System was found guilty of actively pursuing segregation, which put them under Federal Court order to de-segregate by Judge Richard Matsch.

People have forgotten that Corky Gonzales stood up to this oppression, locally and nationally and inspired Chicanos/as to rise up and fight back. People have forgotten that he helped to make the very word “Chicano/a” part of the national lexicon during that era. The Crusade for Justice is part of Denver’s proud history. His poem I Am Joaquin continues to inspire to this day – it is one of the most powerful poems of the modern era.

The need for Chicano/a studies proves itself repeatedly because here we are once again, floating in a sea of ignorance and fear – people trembling at the mere mention of a man’s name. A man who should be revered as a civil rights icon is demonized by know-nothings and bigots who have never bothered to learn his story.

I am not sure you realize how powerful seeing role models such as Gonzales can be to young minds, especially young brown minds, ones who would be directly affected by this library. And by power I mean literacy, community and education – all things Corky stood for.

We need heroes. This library naming is a small gesture, but it is also a giant gesture, especially where the youth are concerned. Let’s help to inspire young minds to pursue their goals by looking up to a man who championed community activism.

The fact that people are calling this decision “controversial” is not only absurd but laughable. But it’s all too common these days. Gonzales is celebrated in forums and festivals around the country. His name should have been engraved on a public building or memorial years ago.

The time is now. Denver is not Tucson. Colorado is not Arizona. Of all places, the Denver Public Library should revere Gonzales. At the very least, he should have this library named after him.

Children are taught to know the greatness of Martin Luther King, Jr. and it’s high time that they learn about Rodolfo Corky Gonzales as well.

In closing, I would just like to say that I wish everyone could have experienced the positive energy that I experienced on my recent book tour in L.A. The brotherhood & sisterhood, the reverence for our history, our elders and our culture – that’s what Chicanismo is all about.

It’s why we continue fight to preserve it, coast to coast and to celebrate and educate others with it. That’s what Rodolfo Corky Gonzales was all about. It is not the fear and loathing that the media and politicos sell but community and empowerment through positive actions.

Corky matters. Chicano/a history matters – yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are all Joaquin and we will endure!

Do the right thing and name this new library after a Denver icon and hero.


Santino J. Rivera
Broken Sword Publications, LLC
Saint Augustine, Florida


RJH May 15, 2013 at 5:18 AM

It’s about time they name a library after the writer/author of I Am Joaquin. It changed my life and the lives of all the other Chicanitas and Chicanitos who read it over the years. He deserves it. WE deserve it!

George Denny May 15, 2013 at 7:12 PM

Your depiction of atrocities above notwithstanding, to say that an apartment was “BOMBED” by police, which stated in your Post Point-Counter Point article needs clarification for me. Never, in Denver or the United States, have I heard of police employing bombs in their attempts at quelling disturbances, or for any other confrontation with individuals. In the wake of the Boston Marathon crisis, or before, this is a frightening accusation.

My question (which your above-paragraphs do not address) AGAIN is: Did the Denver police bomb an apartment???

Comic Saenz May 15, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Philadelphia Police Department bombed black militant MOVE headquarters on 1985.

So now you have heard of at least one.

Santino J. Rivera May 15, 2013 at 7:53 PM

Hi George –

Pretty sure you’re responding to the wrong article as you’ll find nothing about the Denver police bombing a Crusade for Justice building in my letter.

That said, all you need do is research the event. The police did in fact bomb a Crusade for Justice building on March 17th, 1973 in a fight that they provoked – they killed a young teacher and wounded others.

The fact of the matter is, George, this is history and more often than not, part of the history that gets buried and re-written. The Denver Police were and continue to be NASTY in their efforts to crush revolution. This is well documented – then and now. And it should be frightening.

Thanks for reading…

George Denny May 15, 2013 at 7:15 PM

You say, “You’ve already said that”. Here’s something new, how about responding to my question?

Charles Martinez May 16, 2013 at 7:17 AM

I’m a native of Denver Co. and was around when the Crusade for Justice taught it’s prejudice and violence to the Mexican public and school children. The Crusade told the West High School kids to resolve their school issues with violence. If the Denver Public School System would have handled their teacher problem correctly, the kids probably would have settled for the correct punishment and the Crusade could have stayed out of the situation. The kids not only tore up the school but assaulted the innocent public on a city bus. The Crusade cause my family members to be pronged out on the ground because we resembled the true bombers, Frank Martinez (NO relation), Juan Haro and Carlos Zappata who blew himselfe up when planting a bomb at a chineese restaurant. The Crusade embarrassed me as a Mexican male with their lies and violence. Did the Crusdae give legal counsel to the west High kids who got arrested – I think not. Naming the library after Gonzales will only bring out all the facts and he will sill embarrass the Mexicans.

Santino J. Rivera May 16, 2013 at 7:42 AM

No, Charles, you are embarrassing yourself. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you’re a Denver cop…surprise, surprise.

You are distorting the facts – the same way the Denver police department did (and continues to do!) and the same way the Denver Post did/does to this day.

I am also a Denver native. I have family, friends and colleagues that were also there during these events. Their accounts, as well as the accounts of countless scholars, historians, eye witnesses and thousands of people that were actually there, differ from yours.

The DPS did NOT handle any of their problems correctly until the blowouts, the lawsuits and until someone stood up to them! None of that would have happened without the Crusade or Corky Gonzales and countless dedicated Chicano/as fighting for justice.

I know this is difficult for you self-hating HIGHspanics to comprehend but those times were volatile, mostly due to oppression and provocation from police like yourself. 🙂

The Crusade and Corky’s work continues to inspire young Brown minds with posititivity and helps put them on the path to self-determination. It also causes self-loathing know-nothings such as yourself much anguish and guilt.

No, Charles, it is you who are an embarrassment – to yourself and to Denver – with your lies and your whining. It is you who embarrass yourself because you differ with the politics and history of a true Denver icon and hero to the Chicano/a community nationwide.

It is you who has the bitter taste of self-loathing in your mouth and it is you, and those like you, for whom I hope this library gets named after Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, because I know it will cement another victory for the Crusade for Justice and for Chicano/as for generations to come.

Yvonne Lopez May 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM

You idiot! We are Chicanos/as and none of it went down like you say. If you were a historian or an Author like the gentleman who initiated this letter, you’d know the truth!!! I am so proud to have Rodolfo Corky Gonzales’s name mentioned again the the Denver Post! His family os stupendous, still helping our community stay strong. Yes Mr. “WE SHALL ENDURE!” We are Chicanos/as!

Frank S Lechuga May 16, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I was around during that time too although I didn’t live in Denver, I lived in Southern California and it was all the same America. The Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts had been enacted only for a few years. It was still racist Apartheid aka Racially Segregated America. Mexican American and African American communities were red-lined. Racist cops and white thugs enforced the boundaries. If you were not white and you crossed those boundaries you could expect to be verbally abused, beaten or arrested for some bogus charge.

In Los Angeles the L.A.P.D. recruited white thugs from Southern States to enforce Apartheid in Los Angeles. I remember clearly how we were treated then by cops and whites in general. Yes, there were some white people of good will, even a few cops, but by and large there were a lot of racists locked and loaded to enforce their racial privilege and entitlement. That was what Corky fought against in Denver at that time, institutionalized American Apartheid.

Anthony Ortega May 16, 2013 at 4:55 PM

During the height of the Chicano movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s the Crusade for Justice and the leadership of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales were targeted by law enforcement authorities like the Denver Police Department and the FBI counter-intelligence program called COINTELPRO. There was constant surveillance of Crusade activities and it’s members. What happened on March 17, 1973 at the Crusade for Justice headquarters?

According to news reports an apartment building adjacent to the Crusade for Justice headquarters had a party going on for one of the tenants that lived in the apartment building. Some of the party goers saw a few police units patrolling the area and informed other members in the Crusade. When the police arrived they surrounded the apartment building, at this time Denver police officers Steve Snyder and Carole Hogue was approached by Luis Jr. Martinez, a Crusade member and dance instructor at Escuela Tlateloco. Martinez and Synder had an exchange of words, it lead into confrontation between the two and at this point Martinez’s s was pursued by Synder and Hogue on foot. Synder cornered Martinez between an alley of two apartment buildings and was shot several times.

Historically, Corky Gonzales was never found guilty for committing an unjust crime against the Denver Police Department that stemmed for the “police-confrontation” on March 17, 1973. The media painted a horrible picture and blamed the Crusade for the “March 17th Confrontation” or more commonly known to the Chicano community as the “Saint Patrick’s Day Incident.” At this time Gonzales hired an explosive team of experts to investigate the source of this blast from the 10-unit apartment building. A day after this “spontaneous confrontation” the Denver Police Department ordered the building to bulldozed, pointing to the obvious fact that the Denver Police Department is guilty of covering-up the scene. All possible evidence was destroyed.

Pay attention to the facts. If anything a man was openly murdered by the Denver Police Department. It’s well-documented that law enforcement authorities all across the country; have it down to a science to create and cause disturbances. People must realize that Corky was a champion for civil and human rights and equality for all. Please join us in support of naming the newly built library after this nationally-known leader and Chicano icon, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. P.S. Santino J. Rivera please contact me by e-mail, it’s very important that we talk. Thank You Anthony Ortega

cirrelda snider in albuquerque May 18, 2013 at 7:08 AM

As former Denverite, now Burqueña, this is great news to me that a library would be named after a writer whose work inspired many – Corky Gonzales. Mr. Santino raises all the right reasons in his letter. Ms. Lopez’s sentiments are mine as well – we need to hear his name again and again.

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