It has been hailed as a love letter in pictures- a tribute to women of the Southwest. The Return of the Corn Mothers: Inspiring Women of the Southwest a traveling photographic exhibition of extraordinary women will induct eight new women from Southern Colorado into the exhibition with an opening reception at the Pueblo City-County Library District Central Library, Rawlings Branch on Friday, Oct 4, at 6pm; the library is located at 100 E. Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo, CO, the event is free and open to the public.
The following Pueblo, CO women will be inducted as Corn Mothers: Dawn Di Prince, Charlene García Simms, Rita Martínez, Elizabeth Aragón-Blanton, Alfiria Casaus Salazar, and Cynthia Ramu.
Additional new inductees include Lisa Saldaña (Denver, CO.) and Ann Redman (Cheyenne, WY).
The reception will include an opening blessing, photographic exhibition, refreshments, music by Denver Jazz great Freddy Rodríguez, Jr., and oral histories by the new inductees.
Ed Winograd, editor and Spanish translator of the printed Corn Mother Anthology, and Todd Pierson, exhibition photographer, will also present a brief history of the project.
Sponsors for this exhibition include the Pueblo City-County Library District, Metropolitan State University (MSU) Denver Department of Chicana/o Studies Journey Through Our Heritage program, and the Colorado Folk Arts Council the Return of the Corn Mothers Pueblo 2019 exhibition runs through Nov. 30. The show features 48 museum quality portraits and stories of multi-generational and multi-cultural women from the Southwest, whose lives and work embody the spirit of community.
In addition, there will be a book signing by the Pueblo Corn Mothers whose portraits, bios, dichos (life sayings), philosophies, and short stories of women who influenced these extraordinary women appear in the 2019 Corn Mother anthology. The exhibition, and the anthology that goes with it, are based on the Pueblo myth of the Corn Mother, who represents growth, life, creativity, and the feminine aspects of the world.
Todd Pierson, master photojournalist, has trekked for over a decade capturing the images of present-day Corn Mothers who have made significant contributions to their communities in the Southwest. This nationally recognized exhibit has traveled extensively to over a dozen universities and museums throughout Arizona, Colorado, New México, and Wyoming in the past decade.
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo, professor and former chair of the MSU Denver Chicana/o Studies Department, has supported the project from its inception. He commented on the upcoming exhibition stating, “Women featured in the exhibit are caretakers of the world. It is important to hear the knowledge they have to share. It is an opportunity to honor women who give life and heal and nurture their families and communities. That this decade-long journey completes this phase of its journey in Pueblo is fitting, as it is here that the heart and spirit of the Southwest, in all its diversity, have converged for over a century.”
The exhibition began in 2007, partly funded by a Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute project grant. It originally included portraits and stories of eight women who were considered Corn Mothers in the Southwest. Motivated by the concern that as the region’s populations grew, the history and stories of significant women who formed the foundation of their communities would be forgotten, the exhibition expanded to 29 women after receiving a 2009 Colorado Endowment for the Humanities grant. In 2016, six new women from the San Luis Valley were inducted for the Adams State University exhibition. With the 2019 induction that includes six Pueblo, Co. women, the exhibition now boasts an impressive 48 astounding portraits, as well as a full-color printed anthology that includes the women’s pictures, biographies, philosophies, and life sayings, as well as a story by each honoree about her own Corn Mother (a woman who influenced and mentored her).
The exhibition made a brief visit to El Pueblo History Museum from August 2016 to January 2017 as part of the Salt Creek Memory project. At the time, there were plans to eventually add women from the Pueblo area to the project. After a two-year planning process, in the fall of 2018 the Pueblo community was invited to nominate women from Pueblo who had made significant contributions to the community and embodied the Corn Mother spirit. Enough funds were raised to add six women from Pueblo to the existing exhibition and to design and print a new anthology.
The Rawlings Branch Library’s Día de Los Muertos celebration November 2, 4-6pm, will feature altars and art exhibitions by some of the Pueblo Corn Mothers, and is free and open to the public. Tentative events that feature storytelling by the Pueblo Corn Mothers to highlight the extraordinary legacy that women from Pueblo have left to future generations will be announced. All events are free and open to the public.
For more details on Return of the Corn Mothers Pueblo, contact Renee Fajardo, firstname.lastname@example.org, 720-329-0869, or Charlene García Simms, Hispanic Resource Librarian at the Pueblo City-County Library District, email@example.com, 719-553-0234.
For more info about the Corn Mothers: www.cornmothers.com.
Upcoming Corn Mothers Events:
All events are free and open to the public
Oct. 3, 1-3pm, Inspiring Women of Southern Colorado: A Community Dialogue on How Women Create Change at the OSC Room 104, CSU Pueblo, 2200 Bonforte Blvd, Pueblo, CO 81001,
Oct. 12, 2-3pm, Corn Mothers Día de los Muertos Workshop w/artist Rita Wallace and Arlette Lucero at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library, 1498 Irving St. Denver, CO
Nov. 2, 2-3 pm, Corn Mothers Dia de los Muertos Storytelling with Rita Wallace w/artist Arlette Lucero at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Library, 1498 Irving St. Denver, CO.
Nov. 6, 8 am-3pm, Return of the Corn Mothers Healing Through Story and Spoken Word at the Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) Denver Casa Mayan House Auraria Campus, 1020 9th Street, Denver, CO.
Nov. 6, 8am-9:15am, Return of the Corn Mothers: Collecting Stories of Inspiring Women of the Southwest with Arlette Lucero, Todd Pierson, Rita Wallace and Ed Winograd.
Nov. 6, 9:30am-10:45am, An Air Force Latina Officer Speaks Out: Healing Trauma Through Story with Bella Ribera.
Nov. 6, 11am-12:15pm, Return of the Corn Mothers: Collecting Stories of Inspiring Women of the Southwest with Arlette Lucero, Todd Pierson, Karen Gonzales and Ed Winograd.
Nov. 6, 12:30pm-1:45pm, Myths and Folklore: Healing Through Story with Dr. Sandra Doe and Dr. Renee Fajardo.
Nov. 6, 2pm-3:45pm, Spoken Word Rainbow Warriors and Word To Power.
About Return of The Corn Mothers Pueblo 2019 Inductees:
Alfiria Casaus Salazar
Alfiria Casaus Salazar was born in 1935 in Monte Vista, Colorado, but lived most of her childhood in Salt Creek, a community in Pueblo, Colorado. She attended Edison School, Keating Junior High School and Central High School. She didn’t graduate from Central but later completed her GED. She drove a school bus, worked in a hospital dietary department, was a Boy Scout den mother for many years. She received the Dr. Frist Humanitarian award from Parkview Medical Hospital in 1988, was named an outstanding woman of 1995 for Women’s History month and given an Up with Reading Community Award in 2000.
She has been a volunteer at the Pueblo City-County Library District since 1993, a member of the Fray Angelico Chávez Chapter of the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America for almost 30 years as well as a member of two other genealogy societies in New México. She has been given several accolades in all these organizations. She has traced one of her family branches back to Spain, circa 1580s.
Alfie and a neighbor founded the La Salle Road Ladies Club in 1964. Along, with her late husband, Alfred, started an annual Halloween Party in 1984 for family, friends and children and it is still happening every year. Alfie and Alfred were married for almost 60 years. They had three children, Larry, Andrew and Philip, seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. She describes herself as a people person and loves to hug. Alfie is still very active and one of her paintings won placement at the Colorado State Fine arts contest for 2018.
Ann Esquibel-Redman was born in the mountains of Northern New México, to Martin and Gertrude Esquibel. In 1950, the family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s High School, and Parks Business College. She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Wyoming.
Ann retired from Wyoming State Government Redman served under Governors Herschler and Sullivan, served on the Planning Committee for the State Centennial and the 50 State QVC. Redman served as International Trade Assistant. She worked as administrative assistant to Dave Freudenthal in Governor Herschler’s office. Mr. Freudenthal later became Governor of Wyoming.
A recipient of the Athena Award presented by the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, she credits her selection due to her work with the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference and the Wyoming Women’s Foundation. Ann is the Founder of the WLYC and co-founder of the Hispanic Organization for Progress and Education.
Ralph and Ann have been married for 58 years. They are the parents of four sons, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Charlene García Simms
Charlene García Simms is a life-long learner and a lifelong teacher. Her profession of being a librarian and genealogist feels like destiny. Since sixth grade she has been teaching others to read because she discovered reading at the age of four and it was magical. She believes people should know where they came from before they can figure out where they are going and every day she teaches people to find their genealogical roots. Her activism and advocacy to help marginalized people find opportunities to better themselves has been a lifetime labor of love. Art is an example of her involvement with the community. Her and her husband, Ed, organized at least twenty public art shows that focused on Hispanic artists because they knew there were masterpieces these artists had created but were hiding them because they did not have the confidence or encouragement or a place to showcase them. Governments come and go but the humanities, art, literature, dance, music and theater last forever and this is what she tries to preserve within the era she is living.
was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania July 7, 1953. Both of her parents were young and very energetic, they spent a lot of their time celebrating their youth dancing in competitions on the boardwalk in Jersey shores, including Bandstand in Atlantic City. Her grandmother was a seamstress from Scotland and her grandfather from Ireland and settled in Philadelphia. This year Cynthia retired being art teacher at the most amazing charter school in Pueblo after 23 years, she is currently writing and documenting the history of the Pueblo Levee Murals that she has coordinated and painted murals for the past 26 years. Cynthia has been an artist, teacher, mentor, community supporter who uses the arts as a vehicle to bring people together from all walks of life. She has spent most of her life following her passion for being creative, exploring being self-expressed as a teacher, parent, leader, and a learner.
Elizabeth Aragón-Blanton was born on July 29, 1969 in Rocky Ford, Colorado to Joe N. Aragon and Mary Ann (Rodríguez) Aragon. She had one brother, Richard, who was approximately two years older. The family resided in a segregated labor camp in Fowler, Colorado and remained there until the death of their parents in 2006.
In 1987, Elizabeth attended Western State College and graduated in 1992. During the early 1990s, she married Wesley B. Blanton and had two children. Shortly after graduation, Elizabeth began her teaching career in one of Denver’s urban city schools and then moved to Pueblo, in 1994. She began teaching history for Pueblo District 60. In 2005, she began teaching Chicano studies and received her Master’s degree in history. She continued her research on the segregated Mexican schools in the Arkansas Valley and in 2017, she earned her Doctorate. She remains in teaching and continues to conduct research.
Dawn DiPrince was born in Pueblo, Colorado, a fourth generation descendent of her ancestors who made the community home. DiPrince has done many things in her work over the years — teaching, publishing, and design. She most recently is serving as the Chief Community Museum Officer for History Colorado. In this work, she is a champion for memory work that reclaims space within our shared history. She is the founder of Museum of Memory, which works with communities to remember and co-author a collective history. She was Co-Chair of the Governor’s Ludlow Centennial Commemoration Commission, which worked to remember and add new understandings of the Ludlow Massacre. She is a co-founder of Bridging Borders Teen Girl Fellowship, which is dedicated to the belief that a greater sense of place and a greater sense of history are the building blocks of a strong self-identity. DiPrince is also the proud mother of three beautiful children.
Lisa Saldaña was born in Seattle to a family with roots in Colorado and New México. She grew up in the Northside of Denver, and in Southern California. After completing 6th grade, Lisa dropped out of school, however, she returned to complete her GED at age 20. Later she earned her B.A. degree in Psychology with Emphasis on Parent Education from Loretto Heights College, and her M.A. degree in Non-profit Management from Regis University.
For over 40 years, Lisa has enjoyed working bilingually, in Denver with families in education and health. Currently, Lisa works independently as a parent educator, doula, a certified Neurosculpting facilitator, and as a counselor offering consejos for spiritual growth, grief & loss, and for enhancing family relationships. Additionally, she works with Indigenous Collaboration, Inc. with Native/Indian communities to assist with the facilitation of consensus building. She is also involved in the curriculum development for the prevention and healing of early child sexual abuse in Native/Indian communities through Blue Otter, a non-profit organization.
Rita J. Martínez
Over the past 40 years, our comadre Rita has been a cornerstone in movement building and community organizing. In her home community of Pueblo, and throughout Colorado, Rita has a reputation for bringing people together for direct action, fighting for justice, and building power within marginalized communities. Rita became politicized in the 1970’s during the Chicano Movement while organizing around local police brutality issues, helping to publish La Cucharacha newspaper, and forming Pueblo Neighborhood Health Centers. She is adamant that “el movimiento sigue”, “the movement continues” and it is apparent in her continued leadership to ensure culturally relevant organizing. Rita continues to organize Cinco de Mayo, Teatro de la Lucha, Abolish Columbus Day, and Día de la Raza. Rita was the impetus behind the formation of the Colorado Chicano Movement Archives at CSU-Pueblo. She is able to wrap current issues in the continued documentation of the Chicano Movement in books and historic exhibits, ensuring there are historically accurate accounts of a movement that continues to form and politicize generations of ChicanX people.
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