The smoke of burning sweetgrass swirled on downtown Denver’s Auraria campus Thursday afternoon as the little home at 1050 Ninth St. was encircled by people.
Dozens of Denverites — local politicians, University of Colorado leaders, community members and descendants of residents of the Auraria neighborhood that once thrived before city-mandated destruction — stood in reverence around all four sides of the 1876 home, placing their palms on the cool brick exterior.
A curandera, a Latin American healer, named Christina Sigala asked those who came to gather around and impart their love into the house’s very walls. Sigala — wielding holy dirt, an eagle feather fan, burning sage and blazing sweetgrass — walked its perimeter, wafting the smoke toward the community members.
“All this medicine, all this love, will forever be in this house,” said Sigala, who is also a professor at CU Denver.
The event was a ceremonial blessing to mark the beginning of CU Denver’s renovation of the historic home, one of few left standing after a vibrant, largely Latino neighborhood was demolished by the city to build the Auraria campus in the early 1970s.
The campus is home to CU Denver, the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Community College of Denver.
CU Regent Nolbert Chavez, who has taken on a new role as “guardian of the homes of Ninth Street,” spoke at the event, recognizing the pain of the families displaced and the promise of turning 1050 Ninth St. into a meeting space for the displaced Aurarians and their descendants.
“Give this house a piece of your heart and your love,” Chavez said. “Bless our intention, bless the many hands that will work on it, and bless the use of it when we’re done. Let it be a welcoming place full of new memories of laughter and joy and peace and love. And let us all remember today as the day a heart found its way home again.”
Rita Gomez, who grew up in the home, closed her eyes and inhaled deeply as she placed her hands upon the old brick.
Gomez often visited her old house, which was most recently used as CU Denver office space and closed to the public.
Chavez removed one of the doors to what used to be Gomez’s parents’ bedroom and framed its hinges, gifting them to Gomez on Thursday.
“So that you know that no door will ever be closed to you here, Rita,” Chavez said. “You are always welcome.”
Knowing the home that starred in so many of Gomez’s cherished memories was just another building college students walked past every day without knowing its history used to make Gomez sad.
“Now, I’m not looking in the past,” Gomez said. “I can look toward the future and what my home will become for the community.”
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