Vigil Family: Four Generations of History in Denver
History Colorado is gathering and sharing memories that celebrate our state's rich Hispano culture. This story is the first in our new monthly series produced exclusively with The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
In a way-off small corner of the world, Denver, Colorado, two young people, my grandparents, were falling in love and getting married. Leandro Vigil, 23, and Juanita Rossi, 19, married in Denver in 1917. They had arrived under difficult circumstances in that their families had literally exiled them from New Mexico because Leandro was of Spanish ancestry and Juanita was Italian. They were a Romeo and Juliet couple in that neither family approved of the relationship.
They lived in a little upstairs apartment at 1166 Stout. My grandfather worked at a foundry while my grandmother was at home caring for a growing family. Years later my Uncle Pat, the family genealogist, asked me to find the house to document the early years of the Vigil family in Denver. A quick search revealed that the house no longer existed because it was part of the destruction of an Hispanic community that was replaced by the Auraria Campus system. All that remained of that Hispanic community is a single street of historic buildings and St. Cajetan Church. This displacement of this traditional community is a sore spot in the Hispanic community to this day.
I followed the example of my grandparents from a century ago and married and started my own family in Denver and both my daughters are Denver natives.
My family now has four generations of history in Denver.
In another century I continue to walk the same streets my grandparents walked 100 years ago. Nowadays I lead walking tours of the Auraria Campus for History Colorado and I always take the group by the spot where 1166 Stout once provided a home for the beginning of the Vigil family history in Denver. With pride I describe my long and deep roots in Denver.
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