Raizodo

Latinx House founders Olga Segura and Mónica Ramírez pose for the camera. After more than two years of organizing, they’re coming to Aspen for the inaugural Raizado Festival. 

When Mónica Ramírez and Olga Segura set out to change some of the harmful narratives about the Latino community in the United States, they decided the best avenue to do so would be through a festival — one that would allow space to validate the pain and hardships many Latinos have experienced while celebrating their achievements and contributions.

They already had the organizational vehicle to do so: The Latinx House, a nonprofit the pair co-founded alongside actor Alexandra Martinez Kondracke, serves as a “homebase for people who appreciate, support and celebrate the excellence of the Latinx community,” according to its website. With the ­Raizado Festival, launching in Aspen on Tuesday and going through Thursday, the organization is elevating what The Latinx House has done in the past, which includes activations at Sundance Film Festival (virtually, because of the COVID-19 pandemic) and South by Southwest.

“We can’t just show up in places of consequences … we have to actually create spaces of consequence. We have to do that; we have to build it,” Ramírez recalled telling Segura. “That was the spark behind Raizado.”

Aspen became a natural choice to host the new festival — there is a robust Latino community in the Roaring Fork Valley, and Aspen is already home to similarly spirited events, such as the Aspen Ideas Festival. Just as the “Aspen Idea” encompasses three principles — mind, body and spirit — the Raizado Festival also hinges on a three-pillar ethos: power, culture and truth.

“It made a lot of sense to set up our festival in Aspen,” Ramírez said. “When you think about who lives in Aspen, who worked in Aspen, the significance of Aspen in terms of thought leadership and innovation, Aspen was the right place.”

And so she and her colleagues started having conversations with people like Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program, and Lynch’s predecessor, Abigail Golden-Vasquez. Those conversations — and planning — started more than two years ago.

“I can’t believe it — this is finally coming together,” Ramírez said.

Now, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of their labor: the programming has been set and speakers, artists and panelists are arriving into town. Last month, LatinX House announced its local host committee and national advisory committee members, all “highly esteemed leaders in the Latinx/e community who are lending their wisdom and energy to The Latinx House to help achieve the festival’s mission of uplifting the many contributions of the Latinx/e community, while exploring some of the most pressing issues, innovations and opportunities that exist to allow the community to thrive,” according to a press release.

“I am proud to represent the creative community to lift up Latinx people across the U.S.,” actor Wagner Moura said in a statement. “There are many stories that are still untold. Raizado Fest is an important step toward creating a more complete narrative for the Latinx community.”

Ramírez underscored that The Latinx House and Raizado Festival — which will have much of its programming livestreamed via its social media channels in order to ensure accessibility to those not able to attend in person — are strongly rooted in the United States. Ramírez, an Ohio-born activist, author and civil rights attorney, is also founder of an organization called Justice For Migrant Women. The daughter of farmworkers, she saw firsthand how the pandemic disproportionately impacted Latino essential workers. She emphasized that the Raizado Festival is designed to shift narratives and, while it’s not possible to undo harm already done, course-correct for a brighter future. It’s why The Latinx House committed to a minimal 10-year run for Raizado.

“There’s a reason we set a 10-year goal for the festival. The literature shows us that in order to narratives, it takes about a 10-year run,” she said. “So we couldn’t just do this festival once; we have to commit to a longer vision and longer plan if the intention is to change the Latinx narrative. Hopefully it will live on past that, but that’s the commitment.”

She continued that there is a harmful narrative that exists in the United States that Latinos are “takers,” which is “absolutely wrong,” she said. “That needs to shift — and that is part of what I hope to shift. We are going to show many people in our community and the many ways that we are giving as thought leaders, as innovators, as job creators, as people who are determining how to resolve major societal issues, as people who are thinking about new leadership models and opportunities, people who are creating culture: art and movies and music.”

In fact, false narratives about the Latino community have actually taken lives, she continued, referencing the “El Paso massacre.” In August 2019, a 21-year-old was arrested and charged with capital murder — he allegedly killed 23 people and injured an additional 23 in a shooting at an El Paso Walmart that has since been categorized as one of the largest anti-Latino hate crimes in recent American history. Law enforcement officials later found a white nationalist manifesto published to the message-board website 8chan that was laced with anti-immigrant themes, and believed to be written by the defendant accused of the shooting.

“I feel that something really beautiful was born from a really painful time. It had not been an easy journey — it’s been hard to build this, so we had to talk to lots of different people to figure out: What’s it going to take to make it possible?” Ramírez said.

Among the answers, it turns out, is a community openly embracing the concept, and Aspen has been exactly that, she continued. In addition to the Aspen Meadows campus, Raizado will also have programming at the Hotel Jerome and Explore Booksellers, for instance.

Aspen Mayor Torre expressed his enthusiasm for Raizado.

“The City of Aspen is proud to be hosting this important festival that honors the Latinx community, leaders, and artists who contribute so much to our society. We celebrate the value that a diversity of cultures, languages, and backgrounds bring to Aspen,” he said. “This inaugural event brings us closer to Latinx thought leaders and changemakers and makes us richer and more compassionate as individuals and as a city.”

For more information and a schedule of programming, visit thelatinxhouse.org.

Megan Tackett is the editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.