Mike McKibbin

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January 16, 2013
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Events center important for Latino community

When Luis Guerrero moved to Rifle in 2004, he didn't go to many movies and there wasn't anywhere to hold cultural events important to Latinos.

"There was really nothing," Guerrero said. "It felt like the middle of nowhere."

In Mexico, Guerrero said he lived in a large city, with around 80 multi-plex cinemas and many cultural activities. He hopes to have a place to go for those types of family-oriented activities, if and when the New Ute Events Center's remodeling and renovation project is finished. Work may start in a few months and be finished sometime in October, if city officials give the project final approval.

"We really need a place to go for high school graduation events, proms and all the stuff at our schools," Guerrero said. "A place to gather for music and dancing."

That's what the director of the local Sol de Mexico folklorico dance group hopes to see at the events center. Jessica Hernandez said an events center would benefit the entire Rifle community.

"Children and youth could have things like their proms there instead of having to drive to Glenwood Springs or Carbondale," Hernandez said. "It would work for everyone. And I think the Hispanic community would support it as much as they could."

Guerrero said the New Ute Theatre Society, the nonprofit group promoting the use of the former Rifle Creek Theater as an events center, has done "a great job" getting support. His wife is involved in Sol de Mexico and Guerrero knows they have a hard time finding a place to practice and perform.

"They have metal in the soles of their shoes, so that isn't good on some wood floors," Guerrero said. "They've been kicked out of some places because the floors were getting damaged."

Hernandez started Sol de Mexico last May, and said while getting youth to participate was not a problem, finding a place to practice and perform has been a hurdle.

"We're taking a break now because we don't have a place to practice," Hernandez said. "We were using my garage, but it's just too cold. So this is a great idea."

Hernandez, a 13-year Rifle resident, came here from California, where cultural activities were the norm.

"That's where I learned folkloric dancing," she added.

Area schools charge rent and have restrictions on the types of activities that can be held in those buildings, Guerrero added.

An events center in Rifle will also attract people from outside the area, helping local businesses, Hernandez noted.

Exhibits of Mexican photographs would get many Latinos interested in attending events at the center, too, Guerrero added.

He predicts more Latino families will get more involved in the local community, if the events center becomes a reality.

"We all like to watch and listen to musicians, dance, and I think any theater performance would be great to watch," Guerrero said. "You would also have more exposure to the different cultures. It's like when I go to a Mexican restaurant here. You get beans, rice and maybe shrimp. But there's much more than that to a real Mexican meal."

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 16, 2013 04:52PM Published Jan 16, 2013 04:47PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.