New York’s Little Italy was created to recognize a neighborhood in New York City that was once known for its large population of Italian Americans. It is home to cultural events like the Feast of San Gennaro, an 11-day religious commemoration.
The Westwood Denver neighborhood is home to 17,000 residences, 81 percent of those people are Latino, and the City of Denver is working to establish Morrison Road as a Mexican Cultural District. The district would be similar to New York’s Little Italy. Denver Councilman Paul Lopez lived in Westwood growing up and represents the area for city council.
“The population of (Westwood) Mexican-Americans is the highest in the city. What I’m really trying to do is to really celebrate that. It’s something that is absolutely unique to the neighborhood, and it is something that we believe sets it apart from other parts of the city,” said Lopez.
Walk along Morrison Road and you will see street murals that pay homage to civil rights leaders like Caesar Chavez. The homes of Westwood residents have wrought-iron fences that give them a distinct look. Westwood also has distinct, Latino businesses.
“There are businesses that are very indigenous. They are bakeries, auto shops, boutiques, and these are businesses that are organically occurring. It is an opportunity to identify these businesses,” said Lopez. “These are businesses that have existed for a long time. There are a lot of folks that are looking to call Morrison Road home.”
It’s not just the businesses either. The Westwood neighborhood has a community that fights and stands up for it-self. Neighborhood organizations like Westwood Unidos have worked to improve the neighborhood. People in Westwood will tell you they have seen it change.
“There used to be a lot of drug dealers here, prostitution, but now I see it changing in a good way,” Noe Bermudez, the owner of the restaurant Tarasco in Westwood, said. “I don’t want to hear people say this is a bad neighborhood.”
While having a diverse neighborhood is something that can be celebrated, others have resented it. Lopez has received anonymous letters from people in Colorado. One of them wrote “Trump WON moron!!!” and said Westwood residents should “learn the English language” and “learn AMERICAN CULTURE!!!”
While some may not agree with a Mexican Cultural District, Lopez sees it as an opportunity to give Westwood residents a “microphone.”
“You come to Westwood and you’re not going to find many Taco Bells,” Lopez told Denverite. “You get that taste of authenticity. It is something that we are intending to create, to really build.” said Lopez.