October 1, 2021

National Hispanic Heritage Month! MCA Denver Staff Shares Their Influential Artists & Creators

Tai Bickham


We celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15, marking a time to honor and recognize the contributions, achievements and diverse cultures of the Hispanic American community.  

Rather than starting at the beginning of September, National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place over 30 days acknowledging the anniversaries of national independence for Latin American countries; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, who recognize September 15 as the date of their independence; Mexico, which celebrates its independence on September 16, and Chile which celebrates independence on September 18. 

Throughout the month, we asked MCA Denver staff to share artists/creators who have impacted their lives, as well as those that have made an influence on arts and culture in the U.S.. 

Courtney Law - Director of Communications, Partnerships, and Digital Initiatives 

Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project 

Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project

Who is an artist/creator that has been an influence in your life?

The Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project is not an artist or collective of artists, but rather a nonprofit in Denver that works to protect what’s left of the street art created by Chicano/a muralists, in some cases more than five decades ago.

I lived in the La Alma neighborhood for several years and was always moved by the sheer volume of murals and public art in the neighborhood. When I looked into the history of some of the ones that especially stood out to me, I learned that they were painted by Chicano/a artists who lived in the neighborhood several decades earlier as a way to honor the rich history, legacy, and contributions of Chicano/a Coloradans. 

In the 1960s La Alma, which means “the soul,” was a hub of Chicano/a civil rights activism and was home to the Brown Berets and the Crusade for Justice, two pro-Chicano/a civil rights organizations, which protested, among other issues, the inequity in public schools that Denver’s Chicano/a community faced. It was around this time that the first murals by Chicano/a community members were painted as an act of resistance and to create a greater sense of belonging.

Lucha Martinez de Luna, who runs the Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project, and whose father, Emanuel Martinez, painted many of the first and most prominent murals in this neighborhood, works to stem cultural erasure, gentrification, and displacement in the neighborhoods where these murals exist by preserving and protecting them. Her group was most recently successful in securing the designation of “cultural historic district” for the neighborhood, to “honor the cultural history of a community and acknowledge the important contributions these neighborhoods have made to Denver,” as Historic Denver has said. 

I feel so lucky to live in a city that has so much public art and that there are people like Lucha Martinez de Luna and the Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project who care deeply about preserving it. 

"La Alma" by Emanuel Martinez, 1978
“La Alma” by Emanuel Martinez, 1978
“Confluent people” by Emanuel Martinez , 1999
“Confluent people” by Emanuel Martinez, 1999

Share some resources for us to learn more!

The Chicano/a Murals of Colorado Project has an interactive map so that you can search for these artistic and historical markers.

Follow them on Instagram or on Facebook

A short video from the Denver Art Museum featuring Lucha Martinez de Luna: Explore Denver's Chicano Mural Tradition

Read last week's staff share: Gloria Anzaldúa