Sculpture Coming to Fort Collins Sugar Beet Park Honors Workers
I’ve never been to Sugar Beet Park, but I’ll definitely want to pay a visit once this sculpture’s been erected.
Set for completion by September of 2021, just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, the nonprofit Mujeres de Colores is currently fundraising to create a sculpture at Sugar Beet Park that will honor the field workers who harvested the park’s namesake. According to 9News, Mujeres de Colores is an organization meant to support women and families of color. As such, the sculpture is particularly pertinent to their mission, since it will act as a monument to the thousands of Mexican and Chicano field workers who first helped Fort Collins prosper back in the early 1900s.
During this time period, Colorado’s main agricultural export was the sugar beet, a crop that required intense labor to cultivate and harvest. The seasonal work drew many families to the Fort Collins area, where entire families were employed among the rows of beet plants. According to the Mujeres de Colores site detailing the project, these workers ranged from as young as 5 years old to elderly grandparents, who often earned as little as ten dollars a day combined.
For some workers, the nature of their employment was no point of pride. "So many people worked in the sugar beet industry here in Fort Collins, and there was a stigma so many years ago. It was almost like a stigma of shame if you worked the beet fields," said Betty Aragon-Mitotes, founder of Mujeres de Colores.
Now, she hopes that this sculpture will be able to return a measure of that pride to Fort Collins’ Mexican and Latino community. Much of Fort Collins’ current Hispanic population descend from these workers, who formed communities in the city known as the Tres Colonias. These neighborhoods, known as Andersonville, Alta Vista and Buckingham, became shining parts of the community that made massive economic and communal contributions to Fort Collins at large, including the development of Fort Collins’ oldest enduring elementary school.
The sculpture itself, designed by Frank Garza, will be a roughly 18’x’8’ construction featuring a short-handled hoe, the tool of choice for sugar beet workers back in the day. Entitled “The Hand that Feeds,” the sculpture will also be engraved with the names of the founders of the Tres Colonias.
"When I see the project, I see the history of my family and I see the history of our community," said Jesus Castro, a community organizer in Fort Collins. "I think that having this monument here will be a reminder for everyone of the hard work our community did 100 years ago, and they deserve to have this.”
If you’d like to donate towards the project, you can mail checks to Mujeres de Colores, 3375 Woodlands Way, Wellington, CO 80549, or donate online here. You can also see 9News' original segment on the park below.
In the meantime, we’ve got another reason to look forward to September.
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