Pueblo Welcomes Diversity

The Steel City supports people from all walks of life.

By
Jessica Walker Boehm
On Monday, April 19, 2021 - 16:27
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When Pueblo resident Tommy Fergerson's skydiving accident resulted in serious injuries that required the amputation of his left arm, community members rallied around him and helped with his medical bills – a life-changing experience Fergerson says he will never forget.

Now, he is paying that support forward through his business, Clasp Life, a nonprofit organization that helps people improve their quality of life after surviving trauma or experiencing health-related changes.

"Pueblo is full of compassionate, heart-driven people who will go out of their way to help others," says Fergerson, who is also known as the One Armed Skydiver and completed his 1,000th skydive in August of 2020. "I can't thank the community enough for coming together and helping me when I needed it most." 

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Ryan Parr

Fergerson's experience is just one example of the kind of support Pueblo offers its citizens, which extends to the diverse population that calls the city home.

The community is culturally and ethnically diverse, thanks, in part, to Pueblo's long history in the steel manufacturing business that dates back to 1881, when William Jackson Palmer founded the Colorado Coal and Iron Company.

Thousands of immigrants and domestic migrant workers moved to the city to work at the mill, which helped make Pueblo one of Colorado's most diverse cities – a ranking it still holds today. 

"Pueblo is a beautiful community and a wonderful place to live," says Victoria Obregón, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Colorado State University-Pueblo (CSU Pueblo). "Long before Colorado was a state, Pueblo was on the territorial traditional land of the Arapaho, Ute, Cheyenne, Jicarilla Apache and ancestral Puebloan lands, and then it became Mexico. We are proud to still have a rich Latinx culture today.

"The steel industry drew many other cultures, and their descendants have continued to call Pueblo home," she continues. "We also have a strong and well-supported LGBTQ+ community. There's truly a place for everyone here."

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Marble Street Studio/City of Albuquerque

Cultural Events for Everyone

Throughout the year, Pueblo residents and visitors gather for festivals and special events honoring a wide range of cultures.

For example, the Center for International Programs and Inclusive Excellence hosts a weeklong Hispanic Serving Institution celebration each September that includes speakers and special events as well as an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.

"It's important that we continue learning so we can grow stronger as allies for the populations, both in our community and beyond, that need our support."

Victoria Obregón, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at CSU Pueblo

The Center for International Programs and Inclusive Excellence also partners with student organizations and campus departments at CSU Pueblo to celebrate cultural heritage months such as LGBTQ+ History Month in October, Native American Heritage Month in November and Black History Month in February.

Pueblo's St. Joseph Catholic Church helps unite the community with cultural celebrations, too, hosting the St. Joseph's Church Festival that draws more than 30,000 people. Taking place in the summertime, the three-day event includes food and music from an array of cultures, along with a softball tournament and children's activities.

Additionally, St. Joseph Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph each March with St. Joseph's Table, a Sicilian tradition in which food is blessed and donated to people in need. Community members are invited to view the table and join the parish for the St. Joseph's Table ceremony that includes prayer and fellowship.

"We have a diverse parish at St. Joseph Catholic Church that includes Sicilian, Northern Italian, African American, Polish, Irish, Slovenian, Croatian and Puerto Rican members, which reflects the diversity of our community," says Father Joseph Vigil, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church. "Our parish is committed to bringing people together, and we welcome everyone into our family."

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Jeff Adkins

A Resilient Community

Along with hosting celebrations, the Center for International Programs and Inclusive Excellence helps Pueblo grow even more inclusive and supportive by offering diversity trainings that are open to the public.

Safe Zone, for example, educates participants about sexual minorities and gender and gender identity, while UndocuAlly helps participants learn more about the experience of undocumented students and shares ways to be effective allies.

A training course focused on supporting first-generation college students is available, too, as well as a microaggression course.

"It's important that we continue learning so we can grow stronger as allies for the populations," Obregón says, "both in our community and beyond, that need our support."

If you'd like to learn more about the Pueblo, CO area, check out the latest edition of Livability Pueblo, CO

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Walker Boehm is a journalism graduate of Belmont University and has been a regular contributor to Livability.com since 2010.