News Coverage

12 October 2015

9 NEWS: Hispanics working to preserve the Colorado River

Category: News Coverage

Its namesake is our state. The Colorado River starts near Rocky Mountain National Park, before flowing down from the mountains and into several other states. It also winds its way through the Hispanic roots of the American Southwest.

"God's creation," is how Pastor Joseito Velasquez describes water.

For Hispanics in Colorado and the Southwest – the connection to water flows from historic ties to the Colorado River and its tributaries.

"We're trying to just bring awareness to the Hispanic community," said Velasquez. "I know today it seems like we're only interested in immigration, but we have other issues that we care for."

That's the idea behind several efforts to get Hispanics involved in the preservation of the Colorado River. One is a new film called "Soy Rojo" -- Spanish for "I Am Red" – an homage to the Spanish word "Colorado."

The Hispanic Access Foundation and American Rivers teamed up to get the film screened at churches with Hispanic congregations across the Colorado River basin. That includes the church where Velasquez is pastor – Healing Waters Ministries in Wheat Ridge.

"Our parents, who used to work the land, they know the importance of nature, they know the importance of rivers," Pastor Velasquez said. "That's what we want to share with the next generation – we want them to enjoy this."

It's the next generation that another non-profit is trying to reach, as well. The group is called "Nuestro Rio" – Spanish, for 'our river."

On a recent afternoon, Hispanic high school and college students came together in Denver, all from western states, training to be ambassadors for the river.

"It's too critical a moment for us to not do anything and to sit on the sidelines," said Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa, Colorado "Nuestro Rio" Project Manager.

On a recent afternoon, Hispanic high school and college students came together in Denver, all from western states, training to be ambassadors for the river.

"I really like water," said Syairah Gallegos, 14, a Nuestro Rio Participant from Denver. "Water is awesome. Without water, we won't be here today."

Rosalia Salazar is from Las Vegas, a city which gets some of its water from the Colorado River.

"This is our culture. This is our history," Salazar said. "They say, our history is in our own backyards, and we don't even know about it."

That history includes farmworker advocate Cesar Chavez, who grew up at the confluence of the Colorado and Gila Rivers in California.

"Our culture is very closely connected to those things because we were out on the land and working it and living there," said Ariel MacMillan Sanchez, a Nuestro Rio Participant from New Mexico.

The "Nuestro Rio" participants are learning from water managers about just how much strain is placed on the Colorado River every day, which feeds the needs of 35 million people who rely on it.

"I did not know the Colorado River was so endangered," Salazar said. "I knew that we were running low on water – I grew up with water restrictions and water smart programs, but I never thought anything of it other than, this is the norm."

Nuestro Rio advocates, though, that doesn't have to be the norm.

"More Latino families use the river as resources and recreation that is part of their life. That's what they do," Aguirre-Sacasa said. "We need to make a change around how we're using and utilizing the Colorado River for future generations because they're kind of the ones that started banging the drum on this issue."

For more information on the Colorado River film: "Soy Rojo," go to

To learn more about "Nuestro Rio," visit

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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