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Northside Memory Project preserves history during a time of change

History Colorado held a workshop at North High School to record North Denver's collective past.

DENVER — North Denver is changing a lot. People are getting priced out and new businesses are coming in.

On Saturday, the people who've lived there for decades came together to preserve their memories at a workshop organized by History Colorado

"I joke that when I come to the Northside I take a piece of grass and I put it in my wallet so I have some of the motherland with me and that's how I really feel, honestly in my heart," said resident Francisco Miera. "I’m a Northsider forever.”

Inside North High School's cafeteria, about 100 residents shared their memories and stories with their neighbors. 

“I saw a young woman in spandex with a big dog jogging and I knew the neighborhood was changing at that point," said Rebecca Hunt, as the audience laughed. "This side was like Capitol Hill before there was Capitol Hill. Its own little town." 

Credit: KUSA
Northside residents meet at the North High School cafeteria to preserve their memories and history.

This workshop is about the collective memories of North Denver and the last several decades.

"The contents of this workshop will work directly to influence the archives and the collective memory of the state," said Marissa Volpe, chief of equity and engagement for History Colorado. 

She said the history of a place should inform and shape the way it changes. 

"I think there really is a desire to connect that history with what happens," said Volpe. "There's a sense that knowing that enriches what will come."

Credit: KUSA
Lorrie Ibarra Damian at the Northside Memory Project.

Lorrie Ibarra Damian has lived on the Northside her entire life. She still thinks about the changes in her neighborhood that have been difficult to watch. 

"A lot of families that were here for a very long time have since moved on," she said. “I would love for it to be just as friendly as it was back then. Sometimes you walk down the street and it may not be as friendly as you approach other people walking around.”

Getting priced out and gentrification are also part of this community's memories. One North High School student read a poem she wrote about it. 

Credit: KUSA
Nayeli Lopez reads a poem she wrote during the Northside Memory Project.

"Do you know whose immigrant hands picked your organic carrots you bought from the same store whose floors were built by our parents? My hood, evaporating before my eyes like the sweat and tears of those before me," said Nayeli Lopez. “Yet here you are claiming and renaming our hoods like you did our land. Unknowing and uncaring of the history and power it brought before. Foreigner, is that why I don’t see the paletero anymore?”

They reminisce over the food.

"La Casita tamales and Patsy's puttanesca," said Hunt. 

“Across from North High School we used to cut out through the gym and there was a Winchell’s across the street," said Bill Lechuga.

The sounds they heard growing up still ringing in their ears.

"The laughing lady at Lakeside, not so soothing and maybe just a little terrifying," said Damian.   

They won't forget the people from their neighborhood who inspired them.

"With the Chicano movement, with everything, the Northside has given me a foundation to be able to speak, the courage," said Miera. 

These neighbors continue to remain close with the community who's still here. 

"Thank you all for the memories," said Damian. "It's really been great to hear." 

History Colorado's Museum of Memory initiative is preserving memories from communities all across the state. Click here to check out the collection so far.

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