'Amistad' feel earns award for city

Steamboat applauded by consulate for embracing diversity, tolerance

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— In Spanish, "amistad" means friendship. For the Mexican Consulate in Denver, amistad defines how Steamboat Springs city officials and community leaders have embraced the area's growing population of Mexican immigrants.

That relationship has earned the city the Amistad Award from the Mexican Consulate. Several city and community officials will travel to Denver on Monday to accept the award from Juan Marcos Gutierrez-Gonzalez, the consulate general of Mexico.

Linda Kakela, the city's director of intergovernmental services, said she was notified Nov. 2 that Steamboat was chosen as the award's recipient.

"I think we were chosen because the city has demonstrated its continued friendship with the Mexican Consulate, especially in the area of respecting diversity and tolerance," Kakela said. "It's a wonderful thing. We're pleased to have been selected."

Two other awards will be presented Monday to Colorado residents who have made a difference in Mexican immigrant communities. The Ohtli Award will be given to Jared Polis, founder of The Jared Polis Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting education, technology and community throughout Colorado. "Ohtli" is a Nahuatl word that means "camino," or path. The "Merito Comunitario" or Community Merit Award will be given to Dr. Alicia Cuaron, one of the directors of Out-reach Ministries of Marycrest Franciscan Ministries. Cuaron offers English as Second Language classes and other support resources to Spanish-speaking residents.

"We were totally taken by surprise when we were told about the award. We had no idea the program even existed," Kakela said. "It's pretty heady company in which we are receiving this award. The city is honored."

Kakela said the city began working with the Mexican Consulate several years ago in developing a diversity/tolerance initiative. The City Council adopted the resolution in April 2005.

The resolution celebrates diversity and promotes tolerance.

At a City Council meeting in 2005, Gutierrez-Gonzalez said Steamboat "is already on (the) track" of building better policies for immigrants and welcoming newcomers to the community.

Gutierrez-Gonzalez also has participated in the city's Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival, which has now morphed into the city's Mexican Independence Day festivities.

City Council member Paul Strong said receiving the award is a reflection of years of working with Gutierrez-Gonzalez.

"It's been a very productive relationship," he said. "It is really quite an honor for this city."

Monday's ceremony is not open to the public, but several community leaders plan to attend, including Strong; Summer Laws, director of Comunidad Integrada; Robert Dieckhoff, curator for the Northwest Colorado Mexican Cultural Festival; Chuck Porter, manager of the Steamboat Sheraton Resort; Kakela; Linda Haltom, executive director of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation; and Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

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