Colorado’s first Latina historian hopes to tell the stories of all the state’s communities

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DENVER (KDVR) — Sometimes with history, comes emotion. It’s no different for Regis University professor Nicki Gonzales, who will be Colorado’s next state historian — and its first Latina in the role.

“The Latino community, the African-American community, the Indigenous communities in Colorado. Asian-American, Pacific Islander communities” — Gonzales said each of these communities has a history in Colorado she hopes to tell.

‘All of our histories have value’

Her target: the state’s youth. She hopes during her tenure they’ll have free access to museums statewide.

“My approach is that all of our histories have value,” she said.

Her own history, she said, inspired her current path.

“My dad would work two, sometimes three jobs, to put us through Catholic schools. I’m going to get emotional,” she said.

Where she’s going and where she came from draw up a lot of feelings for Gonzales.

“It makes me emotional, because they tried to shelter us from a lot of the discrimination in Denver and Colorado in the 1970s, ’80s, when we were growing up,” she said.

‘Representing our culture’

A graduate of Yale University, she said it was Professor Victor Luftig who helped guide her professional track.

He said “‘I see in you the potential to be a leader for your community,’ and I just always kept that in mind — that I have that responsibility,” she said.

Virginia Sanchez, who is an author and a historian said she heard about Gonzales’ appointment.

“I was just delighted to have a Hispana or a Latina or a Chicana who is representing our culture or our existence here in Colorado,” Sanchez said.

Gonzales said others across the state reached out to her.

“We’ll help you, let us know how we can help, we’ve been waiting a long time for you,” she said they told her.

“We cannot understand our present moment if we don’t have a full understanding of the past,” Gonzales said.

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