Ramón del Castillo, PhD
Historically, her roots emanate from our sister state, New Mexico; but she is also rooted in labor issues and struggles for almost 3 decades. Her name is Christine Alonzo and she is running for Denver City Council, District 11 that caters to the Montbello and Green Valley Ranch neighborhoods.
I am familiar with Alonzo’s work history and activism as I have taken students from my classes to visit unions in the Denver area where Christine has managed operations. She has also assisted the César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver in raising funds for its annual peace and justice march as well the placement of a bust honoring Chávez’ legacy and leadership in the park named after this internationally known labor leader. Her skills as a past community organizer, coupled with her contacts as a well-known leader are a recipe for success.
“I have been witness to changes that have had adverse impact on this community. My candidacy is not about corporate interests, solely business or development. It’s about us.”
Her New Mexican roots tell the story of someone whose love for nature and protecting it from the ravages of industrialization—that without effective management results in the destruction of Mother Earth, the rivers and the air. Her time in Denver for the last three decades tells the story of an energetic leader, unafraid to tangle with the shibboleths of an unraveling political system that is in on the brink of disaster.
District 11, although serving two distinct neighborhoods is a tale of two cities, Montbello with a soaring population of 62% Latinos and an average of $20,508 income per family compared to Green Valley Ranch with about 40% Latino residents whose average incomes are $75,241. Alonzo would like to bridge the economic polarization that will only go downhill unless drastic economic measures are taken, and something is done to balance out gentrification. She would like to build a bridge where neighbors through dialogue, hard work and commitment, could share the secrets of economic success so that the distribution of wealth could be more balanced.
What has happened in Montbello is not a new phenomenon, gentrification in Denver has many residents up in arms—with a plethora of problems that seemingly remain—which inhibit the its’ residents from attaining upward mobility. The needs of the working-class families include adequate daycare facilities — nowhere to be found. This prevents residents from entering the labor market. The following scenario is characteristic of Denver in general. Common sense dictates that it is less expensive to have one parent stay at home with the children than find employment in places that do not pay enough to pay for daycare. The costs are exorbitant. Montbello suffers like many of the neighborhoods that lack sufficient dietary options; thus, transforming into a food desert. Effective transportation options are nil, and the population is aging.
Her intuition and experience tell Alonzo that the neighborhoods she aims to serve will continue to suffer under the manacles of gentrification if something isn’t done—causing more mass exodus from the Montebello neighborhood. Christine is grounded in realism, aware that gentrification has struck; but would like to find the balance between what is ostensibly the beautification of the neighborhood, knowing that to repristinate the community is unreal. She believes that organizing communities into a strong voice can be used as a tool to realize participative democracy, at a time when the levers of government are fragile. She is confident that she can accomplish this.
Alonzo unapologetically supports and struggles with Montebello’s working-class residents in their quest to obtain a minimum wage of $15 an hour. She does not believe that workers should have to wait three years to garner this miniscule victory. As she stated in my interview with her, “They need it now.” It is virtually impossible for workers to elevate themselves economically to achieve this dream. To wait for three years would devalue the dollar as inflation would eat up a good portion of this gain.
Her rank and file status has garnered her respect from other unions and working class groups that continuously struggle for social justice. She has negotiated contracts, between managers and industrial corporation leaders for SEIU, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal employees. With direct insight into the labor bargaining process, she is governed by a strong ethics and values that include social justice and fairness. She has gone toe-to-toe with hot shot administrators whose interests are tied to the protection of corporations and capitalism.
During the War on Immigrants, Alonzo stood up with her community and organized families from her neighborhood, providing a safety net for families suffering from pre traumatic stress disorder and living in fear of deportation–similar to what immigrants are engaged in with the President of the United States of America, and a spineless government that would rather play politics that meet the human needs of its constituents.
As Christine Alonzo stated at the end of our interview, “I have been witness to changes that have had adverse impact on this community. My candidacy is not about corporate interests, solely business or development. It’s about us.”
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © Ramón Del Castillo 12-25-18.
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