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Guatemalan-inspired, bilingual café opens in Denver

Convivio Café opened up on 38th Avenue in Northwest Denver, and hopes to bring Guatemalan culture to the neighborhood.

DENVER — Vivi Lemus and Kristin Lacy met through a nonprofit in southwest Denver.

Lacy, who had spent several years in Guatemala, recognized Vivi's accent. 

"And we just started talking about food and hospitality in Guatemala," Lacy recalled. 

A friendship quite literally brewed - over their idea for someday opening a bilingual coffee shop. 

"I just really loved the idea of how coffee shops can bring people together," Lacy said. "And then I spent some time in Central America and I worked with farmers and learned more about the coffee supply chain. So then I really started thinking like, 'man, it would be cool to do a bilingual cafe.'"

Together, the two joined to form Convivio Café on 38th Avenue right between the West Highlands and Berkeley neighborhoods. 

"We want to see the roots of the community grow," said Vivi Lemus. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Vivi Lemus (left) and Kristin Lacy (right) pose for a picture on the day of Convivio Café's grand opening.

Tuesday morning started with a rush for the pair and another barista behind the counter, as they decided to open the café on Dia De Todos Los Santos. 

For Lemus, the matter stems from her roots.

"It's Day of All Saints, which is our celebration for Day of the Dead," she explained. 

Lemus came to Colorado from her home country of Guatemala 20 years ago, which drives the inspiration for everything from the way the menu reads, to the huipiles exhibit on the walls inside. The traditionally worn and woven blouses are at the center of Guatemalan culture and history. 

The pair believe the part of the neighborhood where Convivio now sits is a perfect fit to help immerse the neighborhood in its cultural roots. 

"The more we learn about the community and the history behind that, the more we want to be that good neighbor, you know, that like thrives and celebrates both, you know, young and old roots in the neighborhood," Lemus said. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Convivio Café on opening day.

The concept initially started after seeing their own coffee under the name Convivio. 

The coffee, the two explained, is shade-grown on farms in Guatemala. Both said they have producers and farmers that they work with directly.

The menu is told in both Spanish and English, and extends beyond regular food at a coffee shop. It features other Latin American cuisine including tostadas, alfajores and more. 

For Lemus, she hopes the cafe also acts as a sign of representation for Hispanic business owners. 

"I think I feel like representation really matters and I feel like that is that beauty of our concept of that convivial and bridging two cultures together is something that we want to transmit to the communities," she said. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Huipiles, a traditional woven blouse worn in Guatemala, hang inside Convivio Café. The exhibit was put on by Lakewood-based nonprofit, Friendship Bridge.

The Lakewood-based non profit, Friendship Bridge, partnered with the coffee shop to put on the exhibit, where customers can purchase a huipil through the end of November.

The huipiles were woven by Guatemalan women. 

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