Its hard to imagine a time when Mexican food was exotic. But when Ramon and Carolina Gonzalez opened the Casa Mayan restaurant in the Auraria neighborhood in the 1950s, many Denverites got their first taste of tamales, tacos and burritos. Casa Mayan also became the heart of the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and the owners invited all of Denver to experience their culture by hosting community dances, music and prominent entertainers like singer José Feliciano and flamenco dancer José Greco.
That restaurant did more to bridge the chasm between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking Denverites than any government program, explains historian Tom Noel. Once you had your first margarita, your first chile relleno, you felt differently.
Noel will lead a tour through the Ninth Street Historic District from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, delving into its pioneer roots but focusing on the Hispanic history. Hell also explore the way that many residents were displaced in the early 70s to make way for the Auraria campus. Gonzalez descendents will tell stories of their family, and a dinner based on Casa Mayan recipes will be served.
The Old Auraria and Casa Mayan Walking Tour begins at St. Cajetans Church, 9th and Lawrence streets, and costs $35 for members of the Colorado Historical Society, $45 for non-members; its a fundraiser for the society and for displaced Aurarians. Make reservations at 303-866-4686.
Sat., March 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., 2010