A new mural celebrates Hispanic heritage, individuality and family


FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The echoing sound of a trumpet's melody rang out as the evening sun set over Fort Collins on September 15, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month. Closer to the sound, cheers from the audience, more instruments and lively chatter filled the air.

This was the grand unveiling of the “Para Mi Familia” mural — “for my family” in English — outside of Los Tarascos Restaurant. Dozens of people gathered around as a Mariachi band played spirited tunes celebrating the new street art.

The mural has been in the works for months with the combined effort of many people within the Fort Collins community. Spearheaded by the artistic vision of artist Armando Silva, the mural aims to be a celebration of many things. Motivated by storytelling and characters, his work is featured in many local communities.

“This specific mural is meant to celebrate Hispanic heritage. But how do you even paint that? This idea can differ from person to person, family to family, sister to brother,” Silva commented.

Silva knew that because of this broad depiction of Hispanic heritage, his mural had to pay homage specifically to the Fort Collins community. With support from local community leader Betty Aragon-Mitotes, the mural started to come together, reflecting the importance of family in Fort Collins.

“I wanted to continue the work to make sure that we have representation here in Fort Collins. I felt like the mural was the beginning to honor the Hispanic and Mexican people that were doing the [sugar] beet works out on the beet fields,” explained Aragon-Mitotes.

Many Native Americans and Hispanic workers were sought out throughout the 1960s to work in the beet fields in Fort Collins because they were considered “cheap labor.” This led to many families building their foundation and livelihood through working in the sugar beet fields.

[Related: Fact-finding from the fields of Fort Collins' history]

Aragon-Mitotes founded the nonprofit Mujeres de Colores and, with the support of History Colorado, started hosting “memory workshops,” giving workers a place to share photographs of their family, memories and experiences that revolve around the sugar beet fields.

Through this vision, Silva started to come up with the visual aspects of the piece. Included in the piece is a portrait of Chuck Solano as a kid in the fields with his family, a portrait of a family, a woman’s face placed prominently in the center, a butterfly and a hand.

Betty Aragon-Mitotes, right, greets visitors at the event Sept. 15, 2023 in Fort Collins. Photo: Peter Vo, Rocky Mountain PBS.

“I am very proud to be who I am, but I'm very proud in a very specific manner. I'm proud in the way that my parents have raised me. I am proud of the work that I am doing and the foundation that I am attempting to lay for future generations, whether that's within my family or those that I may have the opportunity to engage and work with,” Silva said.

He explained that family is at the center of it all. Silva encourages people to reflect on this mural and what it means to them: Why is this here? Who is depicted ? What does it mean? These are some of the questions that he hopes the mural inspires people to ponder.

“You learn from these questions, you become a unique individual through those experiences, you also become more open to other people and you invite more welcoming, loving energy,” Silva explained.

Armando Silva and Betty Aragon-Mitotes share a laugh in front of the new mural. Photo: Peter Vo, Rocky Mountain PBS.

The mural stretches wide on the wall of Los Tarascos, encouraging the community to take a look and think about its history and the impact that Latino workers and immigrants have had on the very foundation of Fort Collins. Aragon-Mitotes said this mural wouldn’t exist without the support of the local businesses, families, people who worked in the fields, and even Verizon (the phone company shares a parking lot with Los Tarascos).

“The message is definitely about inclusion and making sure that all people of color are recognized for their contributions as well,” Aragon-Mitotes expressed. “I'm incredibly proud of this mural and I'm so grateful to all the people that have donated to make this mural a reality.”

Peter Vo is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at petervo@rmpbs.org.

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