Volume 9, No. 35, September
A diverse Durango
The local melting pot opens to all comers
by Malia Durbano
is a second-generation resident of Durango. She remembers the
60s, when the only local diversity was which side of town
you lived on the east side or the other side.
The east side was mostly Latino, and the other side
was middle class white. Back then, the neighborhoods were
really segregated, she said Now, its so mixed,
I love it! Now we all just live and play together. Durango has
grown so much.
Preliminary U.S. Census Bureau numbers validate the growing diversity
of our population, though the final tally from the 2010 Census
wont be available until next February or March. Determining
the breakdown of population is achieved by a systematic and scientific
formula, according to Pat Rodriguez, Government Partnership Specialist
with the U.S. Census Bureau in the Denver Region.
People of all stripes walk down Main Avenue early this week. As
Durango grows, the city is becoming increasingly diverse and attracting
residents from all corners of the world. Durangoans with roots ranging
from India and Nepal to the Bronx and Front Range agree that the
communitys spirit has kept them here./Photo by Stephen Eginoire
Diversity can be defined in
many ways, explained one 30-year resident, Bill Bolden, a former
administrator at Fort Lewis College. Diversity is not just
about skin color, he said. We have the ranchers, the
tree huggers, the cyclists, the staunch Republicans, the farmers,
the bluegrass crowd, the Music in the Mountains crowd. Durango is
very diverse. The West has always been a place where people who
want something different were drawn.
Bolden added that it is high
time for diversity to take on a deeper meaning. Our
paradigm of diversity has always been black or white, he
said. It needs to be broader than that. Stereotyping is
taking something complex and making it simple.
Finding diversity of every
kind in Durango is simple. Local residents come from hundreds
of backgrounds, and their reasons for moving to Durango are as
varied as the countries from which they came.
The Bhotia brothers, from
Kathmandu, Nepal, moved here a little over a year ago from Los
Angeles. Wang and Kenjok, both students at FLC and employees at
Himalayan Kitchen, agreed that people in Durango are genuinely
interested in their language and culture. People are curious
they ask questions. People who have been to our country
ask about it, they said.
Wang said that he likes Durango
more than L.A., even though L.A. was far more diverse. People
were too busy there and always in a hurry. Here, people are friendly.
The brothers dont feel as though they are singled out as
being different. Sometimes we are mistakenly identified
as being Filipino, or Native American, or just lumped into Asian,
Wang said. So we just tell people where were from,
and they get excited.
Amita Nathwami, a local Ayurvedic
doctor from India, has had similar experiences in Durango. Because
I look different, if people see me once, they remember me,
she said. Some people go out of their way to pretend they
dont notice that Im not American. I sound American,
but I do have a different color of skin, my culture is different,
the way I think is different. Its not something to ignore.
We are different. We need to embrace our cultures.
People have been generally
accepting of Nathwamis background. In the seven years
that Ive been here, Ive only had two people make rude,
racist remarks, she said. They didnt recognize
that I am East Indian and not from a terrorist country.
A few Durangoans have made
it here from the Caribbean and South America. A few salsa dancers
from Cuba, Columbia and the Dominican Republic show up for Salsa
Night at Moes Starlight Lounge on Thursday nights.
Kathy Huntsinger, a native
of the Dominican Republic and waitress at Carver Brewing Co.,
came to Durango six years ago via the Bronx, N.Y. It was
culture shock, she said. People are so nice here.
They really want to know if youre having a good day. I do
miss the diversity of meeting people from all over the world and
the arts, but I dont miss the hustle-bustle of the city.
Although she is noticed more
here, Huntsigner added, I never feel uncomfortable. People
are always curious and interested in where Im from. I think
theres only one other Dominican person here.
Will ONeal, one of
Durangos newest residents, arrived about six weeks ago from
Denver. As an African-American man, ONeal said he already
knows, I dont exactly blend in. However, he
was ready to make a new start in life and was told by friends
to choose a bigger city. My first impression is the exact
opposite of what I was told, he said. People are really
nice, but I do wonder about bringing my kids here. As bi-racial
kids, what are they going to have to deal with? How are they going
to fit in and adjust?
Other forms of diversity
are also obvious in our community. Greg Weiss, Board Chair of
the Four Corners Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Diversity, noted,
We have 300 people on our mailing list in the region. Durango,
Cortez, Mancos and Farmington all have thriving communities.
Weiss pointed to this years
inaugural Four Corners Pride Fest, which was held June 26, as
evidence of growing diversity. We had a bigger turn-out
than expected at about 500 to 600 people, he said. The
general community is very accepting, but as you get farther out
in the outskirts, its not as easy. Durango is more liberal
than the outlying communities. Here people can be who they are.
More diversity makes for a more vibrant community.
Durango is further diversified
by its special needs population. According to the Census Bureau,
the 2000 count reported that Durango had 1,784 residents with
some form of disability, which equates to 19.3 percent of the
The current diversity in
our population proves that people from all over the world are
drawn to Durango. Many come for the natural beauty but most come
because they have a family member or friend who already discovered
Durango. The Wang brothers came because their father was here.
Nathwami came because her husbands brother lived here. Huntsinger
came because her husbands father lived here. Bolden came
for a job. ONeal came to start a new chapter in his life.
Regardless of where they
came from and what brought them here, all have come to the same
conclusion. As the Bhotia brothers said, We feel comfortable
here, the people are really nice, and were glad we live