DENVER – The Latino Leadership Institute (LLI) at the University of Denver inducted the second class of honorees into the Colorado Latino Hall of Fame on Friday evening, Oct. 27.
The Colorado Latino Hall of Fame Gala, held in the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, is the Institute’s signature event designed to honor the history, contributions, and often untold stories of Latino leadership and influence throughout Colorado history.
“We are telling a new narrative that is a mostly unknown theme and legacy in Colorado’s history,” said LLI Executive Director Joelle Martinez. “Our Inductees are both Latino and Colorado heroes. Their contributions to our state’s economic, business, education, and philanthropic landscape are extraordinary. In perpetuity recognition of their influence is long overdue.”
While other Latino Hall of Fames exist across the country, there are very few, if any, that honor Latinos from across industries and sectors. The Institute oversaw a public nomination process that saw more than 100 nominations submitted. The 2017 inductees include from the San Luis Valley:
? In the Public Service sector — Ken Salazar: A San Luis Valley native, Salazar has had a distinguished career as a lawyer, public servant, and elected official. After practicing law, he served as chief legal counsel for Gov. Roy Romer before becoming the head of the state Department of Natural Resources. In 1998, Salazar earned the title of Colorado Attorney General before being elected as a US Senator in 2004. In 2009, Salazar was appointed as the Secretary of the Interior under President Obama. He is known as an ardent supporter of our state’s natural resources and rural Colorado.
? In the Legacy sector —Dolores and Felipe Baca (posthumous): The Bacas were a farming and ranching family who helped found Trinidad, donating 75 acres of land upon which the city was built. Trinidad would serve as an important stop along the Santa Fe Trail. The Bacas led the supervision of an irrigation system that promoted agriculture in the San Luis Valley region before Felipe was elected as a representative to the territorial legislature.
“The Inductees literally built towns, companies, and philanthropic foundations from scratch,” said Katherine Archuleta, LLI Advisory Board Chair and DU Trustee. “And in the process they built a sense of community that still connects us today.”
The evening included a memorable performance from Mexican Soprano Opera Performer Caren Rico and The Boundless. Rico is a graduate student in the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.
Established in 2013, the LLI’s mission is to elevate Latino leadership by establishing and honoring the Latino Hall of Fame, operating a transformation Fellowship Program and Alumni Network, and partnering with companies and organizations who want to invest in advancing Latino leadership.
The Institute’s Fellowship Program has 85 Alumni and will have more than 220 Alumni by 2020. To date, nearly 70 percent of alumni have experienced leadership advancement through appointments to boards or commissions, promotions, or elevated public service.