• June 14th, 2024
  • Friday, 04:47:08 AM

Tribute to Corn Mothers kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month at History Colorado

Legendary Rita Wallace de Flores, an iconic Colorado Mexican Folklorist, is one of the original Corn Mothers. (Photo: Todd Pierson)



The year-long exhibition of the Return of the Corn Mothers 2022 at History Colorado will conclude with a community celebration on Fri. Sept 29, 2023 from 5pm to 9pm, with a closing ceremony dedicated to “Continuing the Legacy of the Corn Mothers” in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.


The family-friendly event will include a cocktail hour meet and greet with Corn Mother Inductees, Corn Mother Row (a marketplace of books by Corn Mother authors), Legacy Alley (featuring representatives from  nonprofit organizations, such as Conservation Colorado & others dedicated to creating positive change), local musicians, Corn Mother photo booth, face painting, light refreshments, and a blessing ceremony led by Corn Mother Carrie Howell of  Seven Falls Dancers & Singers and Corn Mother Shirley Romero Otero, co-founder of the San Luis based Land Rights Council & Move Mountains Youth Project.


Keynote speaker Dr. Lorenzo Trujillo, whose late wife, Ellen Alires- Trujillo was one of the 2022 Corn Mother Inductees, will address the importance of continuing the legacy of women such as his late wife, “who impacted entire communities through their dedication and perseverance.”


What is most unique about this massive collection of portraits is that every photograph represents countless hours of research, interviews, location scouting, and planning even before the portraits were taken.”
Brenda Gurule, Chicano Humanities Arts Council


Legendary Rita Wallace de Flores, an iconic Colorado Mexican Folklorist , who is one of the original Corn Mothers, is in collaboration with local artist and visionary Cal Duran. Together they are creating altar for Dia de Los Muertos that will be unveiled at the event to honor those Corn Mothers who have passed. Register for the event here.


In addition to the closing ceremony festivities, History Colorado will also celebrate the book launch of Hilos Culturales: Cultural Threads of the San Luis Valley, by Patricial B. Martínez, Herman A. Martínez, Enrique R. Lamadrid. This mesmerizing book highlights the spectacular traditional arts of the Indio-Hispano communities of the San Luis Valley. Founded in 2000, Hilos Culturales shines a spotlight on the unique culture of Southern Colorado and Northern New México. Featuring profiles of forty honorees of the Premio Hilos Culturales honors, musicians, dancers, & other living treasures, which embody and preserve the continued vitality of this unique cultural tapestry. Among the books’ featured honorees are Dr. Trujillo and Corn Mother, Dr. Evangeline Roybal- Sena. Pre-order the book here.


The Corn Mother show will travel next to the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art in Trinidad Colorado with an opening reception on Dec. 1, 2023, 5:00-8:00 pm and run through May 31, 2024. Here it will be a companion exhibition to Crossroads: Change in Rural America, collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide.


The Corn Mothers project/exhibition is sponsored by the Colorado Folks Arts Council, Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), MSU Denver Department of Chicana/o Studies, and CHAC Gallery, with support from AARP, U.S. Bank, and Denver City Council member Jamie Torres.


More About Corn Mothers 2022


The Corn Mothers 2022 is part of a larger series of Corn Mothers exhibitions that over the years have documented the stories and portraits of 70 multicultural women from the Southwest. Photographer Todd Pierson has spent 15 years traversing the vast landscape of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming to preserve the legacy of these women. Hailed as a multi-generational and multi-cultural love letter to the women of the Southwest, this award winning exhibition celebrates women whose lives and work embody the spirit of community.


Last Sept. twenty-two new women were inducted as new honorees, including: Ellen Alires- Trujillo ( Colorado Legal Services), Batkhishig Batochir (Mongolian Culture& Heritage Center of Colorado), Shirley Romero Otero(Sangre de Cristo Land Grant activist), Norma Johnson( Social Justice  Storyteller/Poet), Marge Taniwaki (Peace Advocate) Adriene Norris (Social Justice Muralist).


Other 2022 new honorees included; Authors: Juliana Aragon Fatula, Karen D. Gonzales, Jo Elizabeth Pinto,  and Deborah  Martinez Martínez, all known for their preservation of  Chicana/o- Latinx  culture; Educators: Genevieve Canales, Connie Margaret Coca &  Evangeline Sena; KUVO  Public Radio Executive: Tina Cartagena; Anthropologist: Lucha Martínez; Indigenous Rights Activist: Laura Naranjo, Elena Holly Klaver & Erica Padilla; Organic Farmer: Sandra Ortega; Ballet Folkloric Dance Director: Jeanette Trujillo and Grief Counselor: Jennifer McBride. Posthumously honored was Alicia Cardenas, iconic tattoo artist/muralist, who was a staunch supporter of Indigenous and LGBT rights.


“What is most unique about this massive collection of portraits,” said Brenda Gurule, Chicano Humanities Arts Council (CHAC) executive director, “is that every photograph represents countless hours of research, interviews, location scouting, and planning even before the portraits were taken. Each woman was interviewed extensively and asked to write about a woman who inspired her.” Pierson then matched each woman’s photo shoot to her story. “So what you are experiencing is an intimate view into the lives of these women, captured in environments that directly influenced them.”


One example is the mesmerizing portrait of La Sierra Land Rights activist Shirley Romero Otero, shot on location in the La Vega land grant near San Luis, Colorado. There is also Carrie Howell of the Denver American Indian Festival, dressed in full regalia amidst the background of downtown Denver, representing her tireless efforts to bring a sense of pride to tribal people living in urban centers. The portrait of Baja Batochir, founder of the Mongolian Culture and Heritage Center of Colorado, is a lush visual journey into the culture of her homeland. African American poet and playwright Norma Johnson’s portrait embodies her passion as a healer and proponent of community healing.


History of the Corn Mothers Exhibition


The indigenous peoples of southern Mexico began domesticating maize (corn) over 9,000 years ago. As cultivation of the once-wild grass spread throughout the “Americas” and globally, the significance of this life-giving food was immortalized in legend and story. Among the Southwest Pueblo peoples, the iconic Corn Mother deity became the embodiment of growth, life, creativity, community, and creation. The Return of the Corn Mothers project is an anthology and photographic/written history exhibition of multi-generational/multi-cultural women from the Southwest who exemplify the essence of Corn Mother. Photographer Todd Pierson, editor Ed Winograd, graphic designer Toinette Brown, and curator Renee Fajardo, in conjunction with MSU Denver Chicana/o Studies, the Colorado Folks Arts Council, and the Chicano Humanities Arts Council, have spent 15 years documenting the stories and photographs of these women, who were nominated by their communities for their selfless contributions and creative endeavors to better the lives of others.


This nationally recognized exhibit has traveled to numerous universities and museums in Arizona (ASU Museum of Anthropology and Pima Community College), Colorado (CU Boulder Museum of Nature and Science, CHAC Art Gallery, and others), and New Mexico (New Mexico Highlands University). It began in 2007 with a small grant from the Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute, featuring photos/stories of 17 women who helped form the foundation of their communities. The goal was to ensure that the history and stories of these women would not be forgotten.


By 2009 the exhibition expanded to 24 women after receiving a grant from Colorado Humanities for a symposium at MSU Denver. In 2012/13, another 9 women were added for an exhibition at the MSU Denver Center for the Visual Arts. In 2016, another 7 women from Colorado’s San Luis Valley were included in an exhibition at Adams State University in Alamosa. The Pueblo (Colorado) City Library District exhibition in 2019 saw the addition of another 8 women from Pueblo.


Return of the Corn Mothers 2022 marked a three-year effort to initiate and honor 22 new women. The exhibition now boasts photographic portraits of 70 women, and two printed anthologies (one for women inducted before 2022 and one for the 2022 inductees), which include the women’s photos, biographies, philosophies, and life sayings, as well as a story by each honoree about her own Corn Mother or Corn Mothers (women who influenced/mentored them).


For more information on the Corn Mothers project, including featured stories and portraits, visit cornmothers.com.