Raizado Festival: The Latinx House Plants its Roots in Aspen

EVENTOSBy 2024-01-24T16:27:09-05:00August 30th, 2023|
  • Raizado Community Day, August 27th, 2023. Credit: The Latinx House.

Among its incredible vistas and high-alpine charm, Aspen, Colorado is also known to be expensive and inaccessible to most. The Raizado Festival is looking to change that. The premise of the festival is simple: to bring together Latino changemakers and to uplift the workers who often serve as the backbone of Aspen’s thriving leisure economy.

In 2022, during the festival’s inauguration, NBC News in Spanish reported that 35% of the greater Roaring Fork Valley in Western Colorado identifies as Latino, and many commute several hours to work each day at Aspen’s resorts. They also spoke to a Latina resort employee who said, “Never have I seen so many of our people here.” That feeling resonated with many attendees as they arrived at the Aspen airport last Thursday.

Raizado, an ideas and culture festival, and extension of The Latinx House, ran this year from August 24th through the 27th, and filled Aspen with Latinx actors and cultural enthusiasts, including politicians, philanthropists, business owners, and community advocates. Created by Monica Ramirez and developed with the help of Olga Segura, The Latinx House, and Justice for Migrant Women, Raizado had originally only been planned as three days of events. However, due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the festival’s inauguration last year, an extra day was added with the focus of bringing together the local community for live music, food, and community programs at the local park.

Ute Jingle Dress Dancer Performing at Community Day. Credit: The Latinx House.

Many Latino actors and authors who attended the festival have publicly praised the founders for creating this space. They recognize their platform and want to be active in the community Ramirez and Segura are building, while simultaneously investing in each other. Francia Raisa, a first-generation Mexican-Honduran actress, told LATINA how difficult it’s been navigating the industry as a Latina who broke into Hollywood in the early aughts. The actress, who starred in many hit TV shows including, “The Secret Life of the Teenager” and now “Grown-ish,” admitted she felt very lonely in the beginning. “I’ve been in this business a long time but I didn’t have Latin friends. I didn’t realize how necessary it was for me to have those friendships and focus in my life. For a long time I was very depressed. I didn’t know who I was.”

For Raisa, it’s been a journey of self-discovery and reconnecting to her roots, and her attendance at Raizado affirmed that. “[At the festival] I get to speak ‘spanglish’ and you guys understand me. I’m not putting on a presentation, I’m not putting on a show, I can be myself.”

Co-Host Francia Raisa’s Opening Welcome Speech. Credit: The Latinx House.

However, for co-founders Olga Segura and Monica Ramirez, it’s much more than just a social event. While there were plenty of moments to have a photo op, enjoy a cocktail by award winning mixologist Lynnette Marrero, or munch on some delicious bites by internationally acclaimed chef Grace Ramirez, Segura and Ramirez have an even larger agenda. Ramirez, as an organizer and activist, and Segura, as a producer and entrepreneur, are committed to change, and hope to create a lasting impact for Latinos in the film industry and throughout Aspen’s local Latin community. Despite the festival only just finishing its second installment, the founders have a “minimum” 10-year plan.

“The commitment from the beginning was that we weren’t going to be a national organization [which would] come into a place, do a thing once, once a year, and then leave… as an organizer there has to be a commitment to change over time. And it has to be rooted in the community,” said Ramirez.

Community Day August 27th, 2023. Credit: The Latinx House.

“One of the first things we did when we started building Raizado was to get on the ground. [And we asked ourselves:] who are the leaders [here]? Who are the people moving things already? In order for us to do this right, it’s going to require programming that continues throughout the year, and deeper relationships,” explained Ramirez.

In consideration of this, they hired a Strategic Partnerships and Project Manager, Melany Muro, their first full-time hire. Muro’s proposed goal is to focus on building long term relationships between the Latinx community in Aspen and around the state. Coming from a farmworker family based in Colorado, Muro most recently worked for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. With Muro’s help, the presence of the festival in Aspen’s community aims to become a platform to create systemic change and help address real issues, like the Aspen housing crisis, by bringing together political leaders, including Mayor Torre, and Governor Jared Polis (all of whom were in attendance over the weekend) to consider policy changes and reform.

Raizado’s founders urge us to ask: “What does it look like to build power here? What does it look like to hold political leaders accountable to change so that they’re not just talking about loving Latinos, but showing us how?”

Mayor Torre at the Raizado Welcome Reception. Credit: The Latinx House.

The focus on community was obvious throughout the festival. Over the four days of programming, attendees had opportunities to build their professional toolkits with various master class sessions led by power players like showrunner, director, and actress Gloria Calderon Kellett and VP/Executive Editor of One World/Random House Elizabeth Mendez Berry. Day two focused on meaningful discussions of topics such as “Impatient Activism,” “Local Priorities Scaling to National Change,” and “How to Bolster the Economic Security of the Latinx Community.” Speakers included William A. Ramos, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary, Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Mark Magaña, Founding President & CEO of Green Latinos.

The festival did an incredible job of inspiring attendees, whether through master class sessions, fireside chats, or movie screenings. The films Radical, Through The Night, Aristotle & Dante, With This Light, and Giving Birth in America: California were screened on the third day and focused on topics like childbirth, education, and health. The screenings were complemented by post-film talkbacks with community organizers and directors.

Actor Wilmer Valderrama was honored during the ICON Awards Ceremony in the festival’s “Power” pillar for his continued dedication to the Latinx community, as well as Luis A. Miranda, Jr. in the “Truth” pillar for his work in civic engagement. Amber Lovatos also received an award in the “Health” pillar for her work in dental health. The ceremony was followed by performances from Carla Morrison and Mauro Castillo.

Left to Right: Founder Monica Ramirez, Wilmer Valderrama, and Co-
Founder Olga Segura at the Awards Ceremony. Credit: The Latinx House.

The festival came to a close with a free community day at the park, welcoming the whole city of Aspen to enjoy musical performances by Los Lobos, who received the ICON award for Culture, a fashion show by designers Mario de la Torre, Cindy Castro, and Lilian Lara, and book chats with authors Alejandra Campoverdi and Cindy Montenegro.

According to the founders, the community day was hosted on a Sunday to make it accessible for people who work during the week. Badges for the festival were given to community members free of cost, as well as movie tickets. A partnership with the local bus company, RFTA, provided free round trip rides even for those traveling from 2-3 hours away. The idea was to eliminate as many barriers to attendance as possible.

“It’s the most important day for our program” said Segura, co-founder of the Latinx House, “We’re activating right downtown…it’s the moment that [we get] the spotlight and the attention from the Mayor and the Governor, and for them to see that we’re here, we’re no joke and we’re here to stay.”

Los Lobos performing at Community Day, August 27th 2023. Credit: The Latinx House.

To say the festival’s second run was a success is an understatement. The excitement between political leaders, advocates, film makers, and actors was palpable, and at a re-energizing magnitude, especially given the recent decline in support for social justice issues. In their latest polling, The Pew Research Center found that support for social justice issues has “dropped significantly” since 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement shook the world. In fact, the data shows support has gone down to just 51% and that decline is showing up in corporate America. A festival like Raizado is a call to action and a reminder that our communities still need us.