DENVER — Nearly all of us have likely had an influential woman in our lives. It could be your mom, aunt, or sister. Maybe a professor, neighbor or mentor.
After a year in Denver, an exhibit honoring inspirational women in the Southwest will soon close at History Colorado.
"One of the main women that I wanted to preserve their stories was my Auntie Lucy who they called the tía of Galapagos Street," said Dr. Renee Fajardo, director of the Journey Through Our Heritage program at MSU Denver.
Corn mothers was started 20 years ago by Fajardo. She wanted to preserve the legacy of her late tía, Lucy López Dussart Lucero.
"She had this big heart where she would take in everybody and when all these gay boys were coming down with HIV and their parents didn't want them, she opened her doors," said Fajardo.
It inspired the Corn Mothers project. It's a collection of portraits honoring the contributions of women across the Southwest.
Portraits of the women were taken by photographer Todd Pierson, who Fajardo said trekked thousands of miles over the last 20 years to get the photos. Ed Winograd edited countless pages of manuscripts to tell their stories in print.
"All these women that do all these things for us, we take them for granted," said Fajardo. "They feed the community. They nurture the community. They make it so the community has the ability to look to the future and to be able to sustain themselves."
Their stories are now being passed down to the next generation, to students like Orlando Moreno who works with Fajardo in the Chicana/Chicano Studies Department at MSU Denver.
"For me a corn mother is someone that goes above and beyond to just be loving and caring towards every person that they come across," said Moreno. "It's just a way to show respect and show love back to the community to these people who brighten so many people's futures."
The collection includes 70 corn mothers from Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
"Women that are water shed preservationists. Women that are artists. Women that are midwives," said Fajardo. "Women that have been activists."
The collection continues to grow. After the exhibit closes on Sept. 29 in Denver, it will move to Trinidad where more corn mothers will be inducted.
"We really need to preserve the stories of our women, so that the women in the future have something to look back on and say 'Hey, I'm going through a lot of struggles but look at these women, look at these women that came before me,'" said Fajardo.
History Colorado will host a closing ceremony on Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. Some of the corn mothers will be there along with their families. Anyone can come, but you have to register online ahead of time.
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