Fundraising Campaign to Commemorate Local Sugar Beet Workers for International Workers’ Day
The BIPOC Alliance of Larimer County is honoring the legacy of sugar beet workers with the ‘Our Roots: Brick by Brick’ campaign, bringing awareness to the back-breaking work of Mexican and other Hispanic and Latinx people who worked in the sugar beet fields of Fort Collins in the early 1900s. In observance of International Workers’ Day, the campaign seeks to raise $25,000 by May 1. Funding will be used to engrave 100 bricks at the base of the forthcoming The Hand That Feeds monument with the names of sugar beet workers who helped put Fort Collins on the map. The monument, announced by partner agency Mujeres de Colores in 2020, is expected to be completed in September 2021.
The Hand that Feeds monument will serve as a lasting memorial, which recognizes and commemorates thousands of Hispanic and Latinx families who came to the Fort Collins region to work in the sugar beet fields starting in the early twentieth century. “The collective legacy, contributions, and incredible work of our ancestors has been erased from many sources of formal and informal knowledge and history in the USA. Locally, we are proud to support Mujeres de Colores for establishing this necessary piece to preserve our history in our community,” said Johanna Ulloa, Founder & Program Director of The BIPOC Alliance. “We wanted to ensure that we could leave a true legacy by fundraising for at least 100 different names of sugar beet workers and local Latinx community leaders to be engraved on each brick of the pavement around this sculpture.”
Colorado’s sugar beet industry saw rapid expansion beginning in 1899. Area farmers relied on sugar beets as an important cash crop, and thousands of field workers were needed to produce each harvest. Farmers and sugar companies actively recruited Mexican workers, and by the late 1920s, the sugar beet industry was the largest employer of Hispanic and Latinx people in the area. Despite the significant role of these laborers in establishing a thriving local economy, these workers and their families are often left out of mainstream sources of Colorado history.
“We hope to unveil The Hand that Feeds monument during Hispanic Heritage Month this September,” said Betty Aragon-Mitotes, President of Mujeres de Colores. “It will live at Sugar Beet Park, which just opened in 2019 near Tres Colonias’ Andersonville and Alta Vista neighborhoods where many beet workers lived.”
The Great Western Sugar Factory developed three settlements in Fort Collins to house Hispanic and Latinx workers and their families: Andersonville, Alta Vista, and Buckingham. These neighborhoods, known to the workers as Tres Colonias, or “three colonies,” were located near what is now the intersection of East Vine Drive and 9th Street. The cultural influence of the workers who lived in these neighborhoods can still be felt throughout the Fort Collins region today, from churches and restaurants to music, art, and beyond.
Individuals who wish to support the preservation of Hispanic and Latinx heritage in northern Colorado can:
1. Make a donation at http://bit.ly/OurRootsBrickByBrick
2. Start a fundraising campaign as a business or individual by clicking “Join” at http://bit.ly/OurRootsBrickByBrick
3. Share this story with your network to educate our community a. Follow @BIPOCAlliance on Facebook and Instagram to learn about the history of the sugar beet industry and the workers
In addition to the monument, a portion of the total funds raised through the ‘Our Roots: Brick by Brick’ campaign will also support the production of a complete, accurate documentary about this period in northern Colorado history, as well as the ongoing liberation and coalition-building work of the Larimer County BIPOC community.