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Alicia Cardenas was a 'mom to Broadway' in Denver

Alicia Cardenas was an artist, a mentor, an activist, and took care of her street, Broadway in Denver. Her community is grieving after her murder December 27, 2021.

DENVER — When Broadway in Denver needed a mom, Alicia Cardenas showed up. And right by her side in the second mom role was Erika Righter.

“People would say that Alicia and I were the moms on the block,” Righter said.  “It means that we look out for people, it means that we want to take care of people, check on them.”

Credit: Anne Herbst

When Cardenas was killed in her tattoo shop, Sol Tribe, during a shooting spree on Dec. 27, 2021, Righter lost the exact person who would know how to help during these traumatic circumstances.

“I’m very untethered not having her--if a crisis happened that’s my person,” Righter said. “So, it’s like if this had happened, not just to her, but had happened in our neighborhood, she and I would be the team to come out.”

Alicia Cardenas ran the well-known Sol Tribe tattoo and piercing, two doors down from Righter’s store Hope Tank.

Credit: Anne Herbst

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“She pretty much touched everything in this store,” Righter said, while pointing to a mural that winds around her store.

The pair bonded over business, but they were close outside of work too.

“A lot of us are single parents and that’s a huge part of that story—we understand what the others are going through,” Righter said. “We were very, very close friends. Not just in business, but in life.”

Cardenas’ most cherished job wasn’t as owner of Sol Tribe on Broadway. That honor was reserved for raising a child, who is now 12 years old.

“The thing she cared most about in life was being a mom, and she demonstrated that every day with her child, and prioritized the world she wanted to create for her child, my children, for all of us,” Righter said.

Righter said Cardenas was very connected to her indigenous roots. She is described by those who knew her best as a “proud Chicana Denverite.”

“Some people think she was radical in how she parented and how she did things, she wasn’t,” Righter said. “She was deeply grounded in her indigenous roots.”

From how she parented to the way she believed in hands-on education, Cardenas touched many members of the community around her. She led the children’s mural at Babe Walls last summer, a mural festival for female and non-binary artists.

“She’s a layered person, and I think her indigeneity is the most important part of this. It’s what ties everything together,” Righter said.

Credit: Anne Herbst

Connections with her community went beyond art. Cardenas fought for safety and better treatment in the tattooing industry.

“When COVID hit, she was the one everyone looked to, to understand what the protocols should be,” Righter said. “People don’t understand what it is to be a woman of color in that industry, and to find her voice and to find her way.”

Credit: Anne Herbst

Righter is proud to have been Cardenas’ friend, and to have known the woman whose interests and talents were so diverse. She said she was so funny and also smart. She never wanted to stop learning.

“You don’t meet people along the way like this,” Righter said. “She had a profound effect on my life. She will always have a profound effect on my life.”

In an effort to help the 12 staff members of Sol Tribe, Cardenas' 12-year-old child, and others affected by the shooting, Righter and others are are collecting gift cards for everyone to address needs like groceries, gas, diapers, and other necessities. She's also collecting Visa and Target gift cards so employees can use them however they'd like. Donations will be taken at Hope Tank on Broadway 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. 

To learn more about addition efforts to help the families and friends of Cardenas and other victims, visit Hope Tank's Facebook page. 

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