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Identifier: WH2440

Scope and Contents

This collection consists chiefly of the professional papers of Richard T. Castro (1946-1991), related to his work with the Colorado House of Representatives (1974-1983) and the Denver Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations (1983-1991). Also included are materials from his service on the board of directors of a variety of different organizations, and research files he compiled for an intended book on influential Hispanic legislators in Colorado History. The materials span his high school years to professional files in use at the time of his death in 1991. The collection includes information about his role as the Executive Director of the Westside Coalition. Materials by Virginia Castro from 1965-2015 document her career as a social worker, and community activist as well as her efforts to honor Richard's legacy after his death. The majority of materials in this collection appear to have served as reference gathered by Mr. Castro, used to keep him informed on a variety of topics both local and global.


This series contains materials stemming from Richard Castro’s legislative career. Of note are Chicano Caucus materials, including information on Lujan vs. Colorado Board of Education, inclusive nominations to various state and national agencies and judicial branches, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Law School admission practices, police violence, voter registration efforts, farmworker strikes, and other topics. The Charro Statute Committee file discusses efforts to install the statue of a charro, or Mexican cowboy, created by artist Emanuel Martinez in Civic Center Park. This file includes photographs of the sculpture. The Colorado Boxing Commission folder references Castro’s efforts to address racism within the professional boxing community.

For information on the 1980 census, Denver Complete Count, and Colorado Reapportionment Commission, see Series 2, Subseries 4: U.S. and Colorado Censuses and Political Reapportionment. While the materials related to the 1980 census were generated during his time in the legislature, these materials were interfiled with the later 1990 census and reapportionment folders.


Divided into five subseries, these materials relate to Castro’s tenure as executive director of this Denver agency.

Subseries I. Office and Committee Files. Consists of materials tracking the transition from the Commission on Community Relations into AHRCR, and transition planning to Peña’s administration; correspondence with the mayor and community organizations; documentation of Peña’s Mayor’s Town Hall meetings, and office files including Castro’s address books.

Subseries II. English Only Ballot Initiative. These materials stem from Castro’s opposition to establishing English as the sole official state language. The materials address both the bill introduced for this purpose, and the later statewide initiative. Included are materials from Colorado Unity, a group with which Richard Castro was active, that coordinates opposition to the “Official English” proposal. Colorado Unity’s activities included a speaker’s bureau, political organizing, public relations efforts, fundraising, and a voter registration plan. Additional materials include correspondence, articles by Castro and others, and a significant amount of newspaper clippings about monolingual societies and education, and the benefits of linguistic diversity.

Subseries III. Equal Protection Ordinance. Consists of documents related to the 1990 Denver city ordinance adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes guaranteed equal protection from discrimination. Following Castro’s death, Conservative groups in opposition to the ordinance eventually introduced ballot initiative Amendment 2. While this amendment blocking protections for sexual orientation passed in 1992, it was later deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. Materials present here include drafts, correspondence, notes, brochures, and newspaper clippings.

Subseries IV. U.S. and Colorado Censuses and Political Reapportionment. Related to both the 1980 and 1990 censuses and political redistricting. Castro’s materials document how reapportionment changes might impact the Hispanic community statewide, his efforts as part of the 1980 Colorado Reapportionment Commission, and his efforts on Mayor’s Complete Count Committee to ensure accurate representation, including those in geographic areas and populations traditionally under-represented in the decennial U.S. census. Includes correspondence, reports, program and outreach information, brochures, and a small number of photographs.

Subseries V. General Reference Files. Consists of folders on a wide variety of local, national, and global topics of interest to Mr. Castro. Some files contain his own writings and correspondence, others stem from his involvement in diverse community organizations, and still others appear to be reference materials he used to inform himself on disparate topics. Issues covered range from controversies surrounding Governor Richard Lamm to the official Hispanic Agenda, the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act in Arizona, Castro’s goodwill trips to Israel and Japan, conflict in Latin American countries, and strife between the Coors Brewing Company and the local Hispanic community.


Consists of Board of Directors meeting agenda packets containing reports, agendas, correspondence, and other related preparatory and descriptive materials from Castro’s time serving on the college’s board. Of particular interest are a report that appears to predate the construction of the campus, entitled “Report Concerning Use of the Auraria Section of the West Side Neighborhood for a Metro College-Community College Complex," and files related to creating the creation of a Hispano Studies degree program at the college. Also includes one folder related to filling vacancies on the Auraria Community Center Board of Directors.


Materials in this series stem from Richard Castro’s brief tenure on the Denver Public School Board of Education. Following Paul Sandoval’s November 1988 resignation, Castro filled the position on an interim basis. Items include correspondence; consultants’ reports and needs assessments for various schools; information on gang activity, drug use, teen pregnancy and drop-out rates in Denver schools; and materials discussing a renovation of Westwood (later renamed Castro) Elementary School. Also present are materials from Castro’s unsuccessful 1989 campaign for School Board.


Contains materials from Richard Castro’s service on the Executive Committee of MALDEF, and various legal and advocacy campaigns undertaken by the organization. Castro also served at different times on the Community Education and Activation Committee, the Program and Planning Committee, and the Personnel and Nominations Committee. Included in this series are organizational charts and officer lists, meeting agenda packets, annual reports, correspondence, litigation dockets, and published materials.


Consists of materials from the Colorado chapter’s Executive Committee, primarily from Castro’s tenure as Colorado chapter president-elect and president in 1989-1990. Includes meeting packets, correspondence, marketing and mailing materials, and financial statements. One folder corresponding to the national office contains information on NASW’s Latino Caucus.


Subseries I. Personal and Family Materials. Consists of biographical and personal memorabilia. These materials include Annunciation School and “Parok League” memorabilia; materials on the topic of police brutality, including documentation of the Curtis Park police incident and hate mail Castro received in the wake of his involvement in demanding city accountability; scattered materials related to the Westside Coalition, the Benavidezes, and the Westside neighborhood; the “Aztec Warrior for Health” coloring book created by the Coalition; the “Richard Castro Newsletter;” appointment books; and folders compiled posthumously that document efforts to memorialize Mr. Castro. Many of the scrapbooks were in poor shape and had sustained water damage. These items were disbound, and in some cases photocopied.

Subseries II. Personal Writings and Scrapbooks. Researchers interested in Castro’s opinions on a wide variety of cultural and political topics will want to review these materials. The writings and personal notebooks contain similar documentation, but appear to have been collected separately. These folders contain articles written by and about Richard Castro, notable correspondence received, general memorabilia, and photographs.

Subseries III. Book Research Materials. Consist of voluminous research Mr. Castro gathered for an intended book, referenced with the working title “Hispanic Contributions to the State of Colorado.” The book was to focus on Hispanic legislators from the territorial era up through 1992, but also featured a look at Colorado Hispanic life in general. This series also includes a scrapbook compiled by Francisco “Paco” Sanchez, the first radio broadcaster of Spanish-language radio in Colorado, and later a state representative (1969-1970); a folder of photographs of Representative Leo Lucero (1971-1984); a brochure entitled “Hispanics in the Colorado Legislature” that provides a complete list, including terms served and which chamber; and articles on Chicano History written by Metro Professor David Sandoval. There is an index to the whole book project in OVBox 6.

Castro passed away before he was able to bring the book to fruition, however Virginia Castro arranged for Castro biographer Richard Gould to continue working on the project. It does not appear to have been completed, but two folders in this series entitled “Book Research Materials” appear to be an early working draft of the book (it is unclear where Mr. Castro’s work ends and Mr. Gould’s begins in these materials).

Subseries IV. Photographs, Awards, and Artifacts. Photographs comprise one folder of material, and predominantly date from the late 1960s through 1990. Many appear to have been related to Castro’s activism and time as editor with the West Side Recorder newspaper. Included among these images are snapshots of community events; a photo of Sister Mary Benedict holding copies of the Aztec Warrior coloring book; photos from Castro’s 1985 goodwill trip to Japan; and photos related to the 1990 census reapportionment committee. Of particular interest is a photo from the 1979 Chiquita boycott that features Federico Peña, George Chavez, Ruben Valdez, César Chávez, Polly Baca Barragán, and Richard Castro. Additional individuals featured in photographs include Senator Patricia Schroeder, New Mexico land rights activist Reyes Lopez Tijerina, and others.

Artifacts include a “Justice for Janitors” flag, dated 1998, that was signed by Dolores Huerta and Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales; a United Farmworkers flag; and a child’s t-shirt that reads “Castro for Kids for Castro,” from the 1989 DPS School Board campaign.

Subseries V. Publications. Materials in this subseries largely consist of miscellaneous magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. Of note are scattered issues of Annunciation High School's "The Cardinal" newspaper, and several scattered issues of the West Side Recorder spanning 1972 and 1973.


The Westside Coalition Series contains materials from 1969-1979, including Castro's time as Executive Director. Materials include correspondence, clippings, press releases, reports, meeting minutes, and by-laws of the Coalition.


The Virginia Castro series is organized into three subseries and contains materials from 1965-2015. Subseries 1: Castro Legacy includes clippings, correspondence, Subseries 2: Personal includes materials such as correspondence, notes, research, clippings, and certificates and awards that relate to Virginia's roles as friend, mother, wife, activist, community member, and social worker. Subseries 3: Denver Public Schools include materials such as correspondence, research, and other materials relating to her work as a social worker and teacher in DPS.


The Audio/Visual Series consists of VHS tapes, including a taping of a documentary made about Castro, and a debate of the "English Only" movement of the 1980's.


The Oversize Series includes written materials, objects, awards, and published materials such as newspapers.


  • 1955-2019, undated

Language of Materials

Material is in English and Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Biographical / Historical

Richard T. Castro, 1946-1991, was a Colorado State Representative (1975-1983), Executive Director of the Denver Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations under Mayor Federico Peña (1983-1991), and a life-long Chicano rights activist. In contrast to some of his earlier contemporaries in the Chicano rights movement, who supported more radical action, Castro focused on enacting change from within the political system. He sought and created opportunities to improve educational and economic advancement for the Hispanic community statewide.

Over the course of his career, Castro gradually shifted from neighborhood activism to elected office and then city agency work. Throughout more than two decades of public service, he actively strove to improve the lives and opportunities available to Chicanos and other marginalized communities in the Denver area. Castro was a leading force with the Westside Coalition from 1970 until its demise in 1974, working to address needs in Denver’s Westside (loosely bordered by Speer Boulevard, Colfax Avenue, Osage Street, and Alameda Avenue) after displacements created by the creation of Auraria campus to the north. A largely Hispanic neighborhood that was significantly impacted by the creation of the campus, the Westside’s needs ranged from health services to housing support, to youth services and education, and advocacy against police brutality. The latter issue was one with which Castro had notable personal activism experience: in April 1970, he was witness to and on the receiving end of police violence during a disturbance at Curtis Park. His insistence on police and city accountability led him to speak about the incident repeatedly to the media, at Auraria Community Center and City Council meetings, and as part of an investigation by Denver’s Commission on Community Relations (this latter commission would become the Agency on Human Rights and Community Relations, the same city agency Castro would later direct for nearly a decade).

During his time with the Westside Coalition, Castro also served as Chairman of the Board of the Auraria Community Center (1972-1973), writing staff and then Acting Editor of the West Side Recorder newspaper (1972-1973), and as an adjunct instructor of Chicano Studies classes at the Metropolitan College of Denver. He was instrumental in obtaining approximately $400,000 for the development of a new Mariposa Health Center at 11th avenue and Kalamath.

The Westside Coalition began to falter in 1973 and 1974, as philosophical differences between the Crusade for Justice and the Coalition led to significant community tension. During this period, Castro was shot during an argument with Crusade member Florencio Granado. Unattributed home and car bombings also occurred, including two May 1974 car bombings in Boulder that took the lives of six individuals. At around the same time, an unidentified individual bombed Castro’s neighbor’s house. The bomb was believed to have been intended for Castro.

In 1974, following the closure of the Coalition, Castro ran for the Colorado State Legislature, winning election as Representative for District 6 in Denver. At the age of twenty-seven, he took office as one of the youngest members to serve in the history of the Colorado General Assembly, and he was eventually reelected for five additional terms. Castro was known as a coalition-builder, as evidenced by his four-time election as Assistant House Minority Leader. He was active in the General Assembly's Chicano Caucus, and was a passionate defender of the rights of all Denverites.

Following the 1980 census, Richard Castro was appointed to the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, established to redraw election district lines. His own experiences taught him the importance of political representation for any community, and so he was determined to protect neighborhoods from being gerrymandered out of representation. He later wrote, “Hispanic and other minorities have been denied access to political power by various means in the past,” and “Reapportionment means whether or not our community will have a voice in the elective process.”

In 1983, at the invitation of his friend and colleague Federico Peña, newly elected as Denver’s first Hispanic mayor, Castro chose to leave political office. Peña appointed Castro to the role of Executive Director for the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations (AHRCR). This city office was intended to serve as a liaison between the mayor's office and community-based organizations. In the eight years he was in this role, Castro continued to be a proponent of cultural pluralism and civil and human rights for all Coloradans, regardless of ethnicity or identity. He was a vocal critic of efforts to make English the sole official state language. Castro worked with numerous community organizations and wrote a number of think pieces and newspaper articles opposing the “English Only” Constitutional amendment measure. He also worked to support Denver’s Equal Protection Ordinance, which prohibited discrimination over one’s sexual orientation or identity (and ultimately later led to backlash in the form of the controversial State Amendment 2 in 1992).

Similar to his work with the Reapportionment Commission in 1980, another of Castro’s efforts while head of AHRCR was to serve on Denver’s “Complete Count Committee,” working to make sure the 1990 census would equitably capture all Denverites, and all minority ethnic communities.

Richard Castro served on the boards of a wide variety of different organizations, among them the Auraria Higher Education Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Denver Public School board. He filled the DPS board spot vacated by Paul Sandoval in November 1988, heartily embracing the responsibility of the role. He subsequently publicly ran for a seat on the board in 1989, however that run was unsuccessful. In 1991, Castro was appointed as an advisor to the U.S. Senate Democratic Task Force on the Concerns of Hispanic Citizens.

Turning to Richard Castro’s personal life, he was born September 29, 1946 to Archie Castro and Josephine McGrath Castro, and attended Annunciation School in Denver. This was followed by a year at St. Thomas Seminary and an associate’s degree in Education from Trinidad State Junior College. He later completed a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Sciences at Metropolitan State College, and a master’s in Community Organization and Community Development from the University of Denver. He married Virginia Montaño Lucero in 1972, and together they raised five children: Chris, Phil, Ron, and Brenda Lucero, and Richard Castro Junior. Virginia shared Richard’s commitment to education and community service, and after obtaining an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Spanish, a certificate in Nursing, and a Master’s in Social Work, she became a school social worker with the Denver Public Schools. In the final eleven years of her career, Virginia was Supervisor of Social Work for DPS, overseeing sixty social workers serving one hundred and ten schools.

After an active career and family life, on April 13, 1991, Castro died from a brain hemorrhage, believed to be the result of a stroke, at the age of forty-four. Newspaper reports estimated that two thousand people attended his funeral.

Biographical / Historical

Virginia Montaño was born in Silt, Colorado. Her mother, Lola Cruz, was born in Mexico and came to Colorado in 1925. Her parents worked as migrant workers in Glenwood Springs. When Virginia was 12, her family moved to Pueblo, Colorado where her father got a job at the steel mill. Her parents later divorced and she spent time in Pueblo and Glenwood Springs. Virginia met her first husband Richard Lucero in high school. They married in 1958 and moved to Denver. They had four children, three sons and a daughter. After the marriage ended, Virginia pursued her GED at Emily Griffith Opportunity School. While at school, she took an aptitude test that pointed her to the medical profession.

Virginia was chosen for a competitive nursing program at Denver General Hospital, which led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Metropolitan State College of Denver. She started taking classes in 1967 and beginning in 1968, Virginia worked as an organizer for the United Mexican American Students (UMAS). Virginia met Richard Castro at Metro in 1967. They grew closer as they both became increasingly active in the Chicano movement, and in 1972 they married. After they both attended the University of Denver graduate school for social work, they continued to organize, protest, and advocate for policy changes. They formed the Committee to Preserve the Westside, which later became the Westside Coalition. Richard and Virginia also both protested police brutality and faced threats, including explosive attacks in their neighborhood.

After working her way through school as a nurse, Virginia decided she wanted to work in schools. She graduated in 1973 and became a social worker for Denver Public Schools in 1974. Her first job was at Grant Middle School where she was the only Chicano at the school. When mandatory busing began in an effort to create more multiracial schools, she found herself helping to ease racial tensions by mentoring the Chicano students. After six years at Grant Middle school, she went to West High School. Virginia created the Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens that became Florence Crittenden School. As the Manager of DPS Social Work Services from 1991-2001, she founded a successful citywide truancy-reduction program. She was also busy with community involvement including becoming an organizer for Trabajadores Estudiantiles de la Raza in 1972, and a community representative for Mi Casa Resource Center for Women in 1980. She has stayed involved with the Auraria Historical Advocacy Council beginning in 2017 until present day. Virginia has dedicated her life to helping people move forward.

Chronology of Richard Castro's Life

Date Event
September 29, 1946 Richard Thomas Castro born in Denver.
1964 Graduated from Annunciation High School, Denver. Played football, basketball, and boxed.
1965-1966 Attends St. Thomas Seminary
1967 Completed Associate’s degree in Education from Trinidad State Junior College
1968-1969 Group Worker for Curtis Park Community Center
1969-1970 Street Work Counselor at Denver Youth Services Bureau
1970 Completed Bachelor's Degree (BA) in Behavioral Science, with minor in History from Metropolitan State College. Was a member of UMAS at Metro.
1970-1972 Virginia Lucero founded and ran La Academia del Barrio School, a summer school for West Denver elementary school children that focused on teaching Chicano culture, and reading and math skills. Richard would come to serve on the school's board.
1970-1971 Mental Health Counselor at Longmont Mental Health Center.
1970-1974 Westside Coalition Neighborhood Planning Organizations. Served as Executive Director starting in 1972, then head of Housing Program.
1971-1973 Chairman of Board of Auraria Community Center
1972 Completed Master's of Social Work (MSW) in Community Organization and Administration at DU. Thesis “A Survey of Social Welfare Utilization Patterns in the Auraria Community of Denver”
1972 Editor of West Side Recorder newspaper
1972 Began teaching Chicano Studies classes at the Metropolitan College of Denver and the Auraria Community Center
July 1973 Richard Castro shot by Florencio "Freddie" Granado
1974 Westside Coalition disbanded
1974 Successfully ran for Colorado State Representative District 6 position.
1974-1984 Reelected 4 times to Colorado General Assembly. Elected Assistant House Minority Leader four times
1983-1991 Executive Director, Denver’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations
1986 Awarded “Human Relations Award” by Colorado Chapter of American Jewish Committee, for his role in the Chicano/Jewish Dialogue
1986-1990 Member, Board of American Israel Friendship League
1986-1988 Member, Board of Directors Executive Committee of Rocky Mountain Region of the National Conference of Christians and Jews
1988 Awarded "Dr. King Humanitarian Award" by Martin Luther King Commission
1988-1990 Member, Board of Directors of Auraria Higher Education Center (Gubernatorial appointee)
November 1988-May 1989 Member, Denver Public School Board. In 1989, ran for DPS school board for a full term, and lost by only 280 votes.
1988-1991 Member, Executive Committee of Mexican American Legal Defense League (MALDEF)
1990-1991 Colorado Chapter President, National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
1991 Nominated to Senate Democratic Task Force on concerns of Hispanic citizens
April 13, 1991 Died

Posthumous Recognition

Date Event
1991 The Castro family created a Richard Castro Scholarship Fund at University of Denver. The one-year full tuition scholarship supports a Latinx student in the Graduate School of Social Work.
1993 Artist Emanuel Martinez’s bust of Castro dedicated in the State Capitol rotunda.
May 1993 Former Westwood Elementary School renamed Richard T. Castro Elementary School.
1999 Richard T. Castro Human Services Building built at 1200 Federal Boulevard
2001 Film producer Caryn Sanchez produced a documentary about Castro entitled “We Were Chicanos: Remember Rich Castro”
2003 The Denver City and County Building hosted a Castro exhibit highlighting Hispanic legislators’ contributions to the city and state.
2007 Metropolitan State College of Denver established an annual Distinguished Visiting Professorship to host Latinx scholars, artists, and leaders for classes, lectures, and performances.


20 boxes

8 oversize boxes

1 AVBox


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Virginia Castro, July 2019, 2022.

Related Materials

The following are related collections.

  1. Polly Baca Papers, WH1793
  2. Magdalena Gallegos Oral Histories, OH173
  3. Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Papers, WH1971
  4. Federico Peña papers, WH2024
  5. Denver Commission on Community Relations records, 1940-2014, WH903
  6. DPL Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA) collection

Processing Information

Originally housed and partially processed at the Auraria Library, the collection was organized in alphabetical order. It was transferred to the Denver Public Library in 2019 and reprocessed at that time. In 2022 additional material was added to the collection and integrated into processed collection.

Richard T. Castro and Virginia Montaño Papers
Laura Ruttum Senturia, Myranda Valdez
March 2020, revised March 2023
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States