For those of us who grew up in Colorado, there are moments when you wonder if you’re the last “real” Coloradan standing. As Denver neighborhoods get gentrified beyond recognition for long-term residents, stampedes of people are descending upon Hanging Lake and Maroon Bells. It’s clear that Colorado is experiencing a moment.
There is a nostalgic feeling for the good old days when Boulder had real hippies, real cowboys roamed 16th Street Mall on days outside of the National Western Stock Show, and RiNo was a legit skid row. Denver–and the state of Colorado–has changed.
Bree Coco Davies decided to share a conversation that many locals were having with one another, but not necessarily with newcomers. The conversation came in the form of a live recording of her newest podcast, “Hello? Denver? Are You Still There?,” at the Mutiny Information Cafe.
Davies chose the perfect spot to launch the project. A space that many consider somewhat subversive, Mutiny Information Cafe is the ideal backdrop for a conversation on identity, loss, gentrification, and more.
The best thing about this podcast is that it is recorded in person, with real people and panelists. How amazing is that? And, Denverites are invited to attend as Davies discusses new topics on the final Thursday of each month.
Davies started with an appropriate topic: “What Does It Mean to Be a Denverite?” – a loaded question considering how many new arrivals land in the state every day.
The following community influencers were invited to help her discuss the topic: Molina Speaks, Yvette Freeman, Justine Sandoval, and Lauri Lynnxe Murphy.
As the panel reminisced about long-gone landmarks and experiences in Denver, like going to Smiley’s Laundromat on Colfax to wash a load of clothes, cruising around town as teens, and experiencing Five Points (not RiNo), I was really struck with a profound sense of loss.
As the conversation continued, it felt like there was a sense of betrayal and a profound sense that the Denver that we grew up with is no more. The conversation turned to gentrification several times as the ink! sign debacle was still fresh in many people’s minds.
The panelists clearly love Denver and their roots are firmly planted in the soul of the city. But, like many cities experiencing growth on the level that Denver–and Colorado–is, the soul of the city changes.
Towards the end of the event, Davies asked the question, “What makes Denver, Denver?” One of the panelists said, “Denver to me, is the people.” That summed it up for me as well.
I loved being in a space with people like me, who remembered that for many years Denver was considered a cowtown, and honestly, it was. The state of Colorado was considered fly-over country–unless you planned on stopping for a ski trip.
We shared what high schools we attended, laughed about Northside being called LoHi, Five Points basically being called RiNo, and shouted out communities and organizations such as Youth on Record, Cafe Cultura, and The Mercury Cafe.
We all agreed when one of the panelists said that 1994 Denver was NOT cool. It wasn’t. Seriously, it wasn’t.
There is an underlying tension in the city of Denver about all of the growth, the displacement, and the freaking traffic. There are many of us who have an entire lifetime of living in and loving this place, and ask ourselves, “Do we belong here?”
We love this place and we’re glad that you do, too. Justine Sandoval summed it up perfectly when she said that we want to have both our $12 dollar endless mimosas and the ability to buy some tortas. This. This is exactly it.