Meet Antonio Soto - Director of Operations & Re:Farm Garden Program Participant

Antonio Soto and his wife, Karen Licona. Photo courtesy of Art of Her.

Antonio Soto and his wife, Karen Licona. Photo courtesy of Art of Her.

Note: This story has been edited from its original publication to reflect recent changes.

You wouldn’t know it by watching him now, but in 2015, Antonio hit hard times...

Inda Vergara, Re:Vision Promotora. Photo by Art of Her.

Inda Vergara, Re:Vision Promotora. Photo by Art of Her.

His job had just been outsourced overseas, and he recently divorced. He found himself with no choice but to move in with his mother. At the time, his mother was participating in Re:Vision's Re:Farm program, our signature program that helps local families grown their own organic produce as a way to help create a community food system and provide families with healthy food in an area with no access to healthy food. 

In time, Antonio began helping in the garden, thanks to encouragement of his promotora, Inda.

"Inda had an infectious passion for teaching that extended outside of gardening. She helped us figure out some assistance programs, and other programs that seemed too intimidating to try out on our own."

Then he began participating in classes at La Cocina

"Inda noticed I was a bit isolated, and suggested I take a class. At first I laughed, I didn't consider myself much of a cook, but she insisted it was about more than cooking." 

After his first class, Antonio was hooked.

He learned what to do with the extra produce from his garden, and new recipes from fellow community members. "I went from eating fast food and not socializing with my neighbors, to eating freshly harvested vegetables from my own yard and feeling like I was truly part of the community." 

Now, Antonio works as Re:Vision's director of operations. When he applied for the job, he told Eric Kornacki not to hire him during his interview. He didn’t feel qualified, or like he could do it, but Eric assured him that the technical skills would come, what Antonio has was something he wouldn’t be able to teach someone else; passion for his community and culture, and a deep understanding of how the Re:Farm program is so much more than gardening.

Antonio’s family in their garden.

Antonio’s family in their garden.

He's also recently completed his studies at Colorado State University’s global campus and helps his family business, a Colombian food stand at a local farmers market. 

After work and school, his entire family pitches in and helps in the garden. He says he considers it some of his most cherished quality time with them. It’s one of the few times during the day they are away from distractions and get to be together.

"I cannot imagine what the trajectory of my life would have been had my Promotora not encouraged me to get more involved with my community and my personal health. I am thankful everyday for the role Re:Vision has played in my life."

A look at Día de los Muertos through the eyes of Yuridia Bahena


As November 1st approaches, many Mexican and Mexican-American communities are preparing for Día de los Muertos.  During this celebration, loved ones are remembered, ofrendas are built, and cemeteries are illuminated all through the night by an assortment of candles.  

Yuridia Bahena, Re:Own Program Manager, emphasizes the importance of celebrating Día de los Muertos and of the staple food of this celebration: pan de muerto.  Pan de muerto is full of deep meaning, and is made as an offering for your muertos- or loved ones who have died. In many regions, the bread is made in a circular form representing the circle of life and death, with huesitos on top representing bones.  In other places, like Yuri’s hometown in Guerrero, pan de muerto is made in the form of a muñequita, or a tiny figure representing a loved one. After baking, pan de muerto is topped with a variety of decorations ranging from brightly colored sugar to floral designs to sesame seeds.

An example of a traditional altar from Denver’s Mexican Cultural Center (2017)

An example of a traditional altar from Denver’s Mexican Cultural Center (2017)

In México, ofrendas are decorated for the departed.  Families use flowers, pan de muerto, photos, saint figurines, candles, and favorite foods and drinks to create a space to honor their loved ones.  Growing up, Yuri helped her mother, aunts, and grandmother to prepare pan de muerto and to sew napkins with the names of their muertos on them. Neighbors would exchange their pan de muerto the week before Día de los Muertos.  

Yuri recalls that on November 1st, everyone in her neighborhood would open up their houses to show off their ofrendas.  Her cousins would come in from the city for the celebration, and they would visit all of their neighbors and their ofrendas.  The first year after someone had died, the ofrenda would be large and elaborate to pay special honor to that family member. That night, the cemetery would be lit with many candles as families joined together to welcome their muertos.  Yuri remembers that small white butterflies would fly in a large flock into the area, and her grandmother told her that these were the souls of children who had died, returning to their loved ones. She also describes the wonder of the celebration: drink levels getting lower and food tasting different after the muertos had visited.  She laughs, saying it sounds unbelievable but that it’s true!

Yuridia Bahena, Re:Own Program Manager

Yuridia Bahena, Re:Own Program Manager

Día de los Muertos is a holiday filled with rich tradition and symbolism, and is something beautiful to be passed down through the generations.  Yuri will be featured at Westwood’s very own celebration: Muertos en Westwood. She will be leading two cooking classes on making your own pan de muerto!

Get your tickets here

Pan de Muerto Cooking Classes

Saturday, November 3 at 3pm & 5pm

3800 Morrison Rd.

BUEN PROVECHO Chef Spotlight: Edwin Sandoval

Chef Edwin Sandoval, resident chef at Invisible City and owner of XATRUCHO

Chef Edwin Sandoval, resident chef at Invisible City and owner of XATRUCHO

By Emily Ureste

When Chef Edwin Sandoval Cruz cooks, he combines his Honduran heritage, his culinary background, and his love for fresh food.

Chef Sandoval is the owner of XATRUCHO, which he describes as a private food concept.  The word Xatrucho is a nod to his Honduran roots: Edwin was born and raised in Honduras, moving to Colorado at age 10.  Xatrucho (pronounced ca-tru-cho) refers to a general in the Honduran army as well as a nickname for the Honduran people.  Through his cooking, Edwin hopes to show people that Honduran culture is far more than what we see on the news- it is positive and influential.

Throughout his journey as a chef, Edwin cites perseverance as a main factor.  He started off as a busboy at a restaurant in Colorado Springs. After his shifts ended, he was eager to make extra money for school, so he ended up in the kitchen assisting the cooks.  As a young chef, he realized his passion for engaging creative freedom with cooking, and ended up working to create XATRUCHO, a concept with, in the words of Chef Sandoval, “a basis in the past and a focus on the future.”  There is intrigue in the process of blending Central American and Latin flavors with more classic styles of cooking, and XATRUCHO explores this theme.

Knowing where your food comes from is important to Edwin.  Through his different chef jobs, he realized that getting a box of random vegetables does not have the same satisfaction as knowing local farmers and creating meaningful connections within communities.  Edwin uses produce from our very own farm at Re:Vision, and loves picking vegetables with David. “I go to farms and probably eat just as much as I buy from them! I love being there,” Edwin shares, laughing.  

For Edwin, getting his hands in the soil and growing his own food has been an important enhancement to his occupation as a chef.  Two years ago, he participated in our Backyard Garden program, where he had Yuri as his promotora and guide to all things food-related.  He describes the joy of getting up in the morning to water the garden and of learning about vegetables he didn’t grow up eating.

The phrase Buen Provecho takes Edwin back to his childhood in Honduras.  He is reminded of the importance of eating with family, the value in sitting down to fully enjoy a meal, and the satisfaction of putting fresh food into your body.  For BUEN PROVECHO, Edwin will be preparing a garden salad and incorporating fresh hydroponic greens from Re:Vision’s Caja Verde, as well as carrots and beats from our Urban Farm.

To purchase tickets to BUEN PROVECHO, click here.

BUEN PROVECHO Chef Spotlight: Jose Avila

Cocinero Mexicano & Co-Owner of Machete Restaurants

Cocinero Mexicano & Co-Owner of Machete Restaurants

By Emily Ureste

Good tacos.  Good tequila.  Sitting down and enjoying a meal with those around you.  Jose Avila is passionate about these fine things in life.

Jose is a chef and co-owner at Machete Tequila + Tacos, which has three locations in Denver.  His restaurant and philosophy on food is inspired by his roots, growing up in Mexico City. It is in this city that he grew up with all things tacos al pastor, which are the most iconic dish of the area.  However, Jose recognizes that tacos al pastor are a unique mix of cultures and show the power of immigration. Originally, Lebanese immigrants brought the concept of tacos al pastor on a spit to Mexico, which is why the process is similar to gyros.  Upon arrival, these newcomers were introduced to red peppers and pork, and the result was tacos al pastor. This dish is a unique blend of heritages, and its path has continued into the United States, where Mexican immigrants first introduced it to California.   

There is value in every step of a journey, and Jose gives credit to each phase.  Born and raised in Mexico City, it is here that he learned the importance of food, family, and community.  Food was a tool for gathering people together to watch soccer or to simply catch up. It is these roots that led Jose to open Machete Tequila + Tacos, a staple in Denver’s food scene.  

As a small business owner, he recognizes the importance of having fresh produce and giving back to local communities by supporting farmers.  Machete has grown solely by word of mouth, and Jose values his customers- he has even catered the weddings of customers that met at his restaurant!   

The phrase Buen Provecho brings a message of warmth and family.  “Especially being in another country away from your family,” Jose confides, “everytime you hear it, it feels warm.  It makes you feel home.” Jose will be making his tacos al pastor for Buen Provecho, don’t miss him!

To purchase tickets to BUEN PROVECHO, click here.

BUEN PROVECHO Chef Spotlight: Keigh Crespo

Chef Keigh Crespo, owner of Dos Abuelas

Chef Keigh Crespo, owner of Dos Abuelas

By Emily Ureste

At Chef Keigh Crespo’s food truck, one feels transported to a place far from Denver’s RiNo neighborhood.  The air smells of fresh empanadas, the Puerto Rican flag waves with pride, and you can almost feel a slight island breeze.

For Keigh, food is about memory.  She named her business Dos Abuelas in honor of her two Puerto Rican grandmothers who taught her the art of cooking and the art of caring through others through food.  She describes the aroma of her grandmothers’ cooking as something that “hugs your soul” and seeks to create that sensation of warmth in those around her. Although the Puerto Rican population in Denver is not large, Keigh loves educating her customers about her food and heritage, and finds that people continue to return to satisfy their newfound love of Puerto Rican food.  In her own words, Keigh wants to “get people to Puerto Rico without a flight!”

Dos Abuelas is located in Finn’s Manor, and with Keigh’s help it has become known as a Latin hot spot on Friday nights.  A live salsa band plays while people eat, drink, and dance. “It’s like Latin Fever,” Keigh laughs, “all you need are some domino tables and some congas and forget about it!”  Originally from New York City, Keigh has loved seeing this community come to life in Denver.

There is value in food that is both authentic and healthy, and Keigh seeks to prepare dishes that preserve the deep and rich tastes of her heritage while also using fresh and organic materials.  She reaches the same flavors that her grandmothers’ passed down to her while also being health conscious.

The phrase buen provecho creates a sense of community for Keigh.  Although her family is not here in Denver, the word fosters closeness with those around her, from her friends to the strangers at Subway.  She will be making rice, habichuelas guisadas, pernil, and platanos at BUEN PROVECHO!

To purchase tickets to BUEN PROVECHO, click here.

BUEN PROVECHO Chef Spotlight: Adriana Rondón, El Camino de la Arepa

Adriana Rondón

Adriana Rondón

By Emily Ureste

The process of making arepas is like magic, from the second you put your hands in the dough to the finished product.  As Adriana Rondón speaks of this process, her hands move with her voice, mimicking the motions of preparing the food that has come to mean everything to her.  

For Adriana, El Camino de la Arepa is more than just the name of her popular cooking class: it is the journey of the Venezuelan people from their homeland to places beyond.  Adriana herself moved from Caracas, Venezuela to Denver seven years ago. Upon her move, she cites arepas as a source of healing and lessening feelings of sadness and nostalgia due to leaving her country.  

“I think eating arepas is the first memory for every Venezuelan,” Adriana confides with laughter in voice.  “We eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!” She goes on to describe the importance of joining with community and family around the table, both to make arepas and to eat them.  Her own first memory of enjoying this food was at her grandmother's house in the Caribbean region, where the arepas are giant and taste like heaven.

Since moving to Colorado, Adriana has realized her passion for sharing her culture with Denverites.  Through teaching others the process that is integral to her life, she celebrates her roots and raises money for organizations that are currently working in Venezuela.  When she shares her culture and her memories, she creates a community centered around the love of good food.

Adriana believes that arepas are for everybody.  They are deliciously warm, gluten free, and can be modified for both vegetarians and meat lovers.  She has never met a person who didn’t like arepas, and believes that as Venezuelans continue to migrate, their food will be brought to wider audiences as well.  

From Adriana’s perspective, buen provecho means that food is like medicine.  It heals you, brings you back to lovely memories, and makes you happy.  Her famous arepas will be featured during cocktail hour, presented by All Angles Covered Roofing, at Buen Provecho on October 13th!    

BUEN PROVECHO Chef Spotlight: Damaris Ronkanen, owner of Cultura Craft Chocolate


By Emily Ureste

When Damaris Ronkanen makes a steaming cup of hot chocolate- or chocolate, as it is simply known in Spanish- it takes her back to her childhood, when she would spend time visiting her grandmother in Puebla, Mexico.

Damaris has always loved chocolate.  Her favorite memory of visiting her family in Mexico was in the mornings, when her grandmother would make hot chocolate for breakfast. She takes pride in the fact that Mexico was the first place where chocolate was introduced into Western Culture, and the way it is woven into the region’s history.  At the heart of her business, Cultura Craft Chocolate, is the preservation of chocolate “like abuelita’s” mixed with sustainable and ethical practice in every step of the process.

Over the past few years, Damaris has had the opportunity to visit many of the cacao farms that supply to her.  To be able to observe the process, from trying to pulp inside of raw cacao to knowing who is roasting the beans, is eye-opening and important in her business practice.  Notably, she recently visited farms in Haiti, where many of the farmers are women smallholders who are empowered through the industry.

In the same way, Damaris supports Re:Vision because of the way food and urban farming are used to empower the local community and preserve the historic Latino culture of Westwood.  She admires the way the Westwood Food Co-op encourages the community to come together, and the fact that people are able to grow their own food in the neighborhood.

Damaris is passionate about the diversity and importance of Mexican food.  Mole is especially fascinating, because each town and region has their own spin on it.  She loves it when people are surprised by the taste and variation of the dish, and loves to think of new ways of sharing it with her friends, such as putting it on pizza.  For Damaris, hosting her friends to try new foods is a community builder and a form of creative expression of her culture and personality.

At BUEN PROVECHO, Damaris will be preparing her renowned hot chocolate along with churros, because in her wise words, “who doesn’t like fried dough with cinnamon on it?!”  Don’t miss her on October 13th!

To purchase tickets to BUEN PROVECHO, click here.

BUEN PROVECHO Chef Spotlight: Meet Dana Rodriguez

Chef Dana Rodriguez, Co-Owner of Works & Class and Super Mega Bien

Chef Dana Rodriguez, Co-Owner of Works & Class and Super Mega Bien

By: Emily Ureste

For Chef Dana Rodriguez, food has the power to transport a person: to a place, a friend, a song, a dance, a distinct memory.  The kitchen is a powerful tool to encourage remembrance and community.

When Dana speaks about the art of cooking, you can feel the innovation and energy radiating off of her.  Her journey starts on a farm in Chihuahua, Mexico, where she grew up preparing meals with her family. She now promotes and celebrates her roots by putting new spins on old classics, like her specialty mole.  “Mole is almost like a love letter,” Dana states, and she continues to explain the process of combining a variety of ingredients to create something good and special. Dana prides herself on using fresh ingredients, and she speaks often about the importance of finding good sources for her dishes.  Her mole includes plantains from Peru, and chocolate and Oaxaca peppers from Mexico.

Overcoming obstacles has been a large part of Dana’s story: she cites being Latina in the culinary world as a challenge.  When she arrived in Denver twenty years ago, she first had to overcome language barriers. She started off as a dishwasher at Panzano, where she learned to respect all levels of the industry.  As she moved up, she earned the nickname “Loca” for her spirited refusal to take any sh** from men in the industry.  She uses her food to pay homage to the journey that has brought her to this day, celebrating her culture and every step of the way.

These days, you can find Dana running two trendy restaurants in RiNo: Work & Class and SuperMegaBien (recently voted as one of Denver’s best restaurants by 5280 Magazine).  However, she never forgets to praise the farmers that she works with in Mexico, Peru, Cuba, and the United States.  For her, it is essential to have sources of food where the employees are treated well, the land is cared for, and the integrity of the product and culture is maintained.  

Dana believes that when chefs shares their dishes, they do it with purpose.  When customers try Dana’s food, she hopes that they will be reminded of Mexico or transported to their own fond memories.  She also believes that as a restaurant owner, she has a duty to support and represent communities of people with stories similar to her own.  For this reason, she is passionate about the work that Re:Vision is doing in the Westwood community and wants to see more people empowered to grow their own food and start their own businesses.      

For Dana, BUEN PROVECHO is about enjoying a meal, participating in community, and knowing your food has a good source.  Look for her mole with duck confit at Buen Provecho on October 13th!

To purchase tickets to BUEN PROVECHO, click here.

Yo-Yo Ma Visits Re:Vision and Westwood

On Thursday, August 2, after his sold-out performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Yo-Yo Ma visited Re:Vision and our Urban Farm for an intimate farm-to-table lunch with members of the community.

It began the night before, where thanks to the generous support of Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, 30 Westwood community members boarded a bus from La Casita and got to experience Yo-Yo Ma's Red Rocks sold-out debut. The concert kicks of a two-year, 36-city tour. But what makes this tour particularly special is that Mr. Ma's journey is not only motivated by his six-decade relationship with the music, but also by Bach’s ability to speak to our shared humanity at a time when our civic conversation is so often focused on division.

The following day community members gathered at 9am to start harvesting and preparing a special farm-to-table lunch to celebrate Yo-Yo's visit to Westwood. He arrived to a whirlwind of guests but was quickly put to work on the farm where he harvested vegetables with our Promotoras and Farm Managers. The meal was kicked off by blessing and song from third-generation Westwood resident and artist, Santiago Jaramillo. Once everyone was seated, Mr. Ma treated attendees to a Sarabande.

"My job," said Yo-Yo Ma as he address attendees, "is to learn what people are doing, and when possible, have people talk to each other and share that knowledge." 

It was an afternoon where we in fact shared knowledge, stories, a lovely meal and even some tears. We are so grateful to have hosted the event, and it is something that will live in the heart of Westwood for years to come. 

Villaging 2050

Have you heard of a Villaging Economy? 

It might have many names, there's the One Small Town concept, Ubuntu, but the concept is this; being able to free yourself from economic dependence. Think about your monthly bills; how many of them are making large corporations and conglomerates money? 

One day, filmmakers Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg (The Healthcare Movie) woke up and realized, all of their money was going towards making large companies and conglomerates rich. Everything from their rent, car payments, health insurance, and more. So they sold all of their furniture, got rid of their apartment, and hit the road. They set out to find communities who are attempting to create their own, "Villaging Economy." In essence, communities that have taken steps to leverage their collective knowledge and build their own economy, hopefully decreasing their economic dependence on the large system and keeping the wealth in the community. 

Sound familiar? Yes, that is very much in line with our mission for Re:Own. We believe the Westwood community is full of talented, budding entrepreneurs, that with the right training, will launch successful businesses (particularly related to food and art) and begin to build a thriving Westwood. And Laurie and Terry agreed. When they Googled "Community Wealth" Re:Vision came up and they were intrigued.

Monday, July 9 - Wednesday, July 11, Laurie and Terry visited with our community members, Promotoras, and staff (including staff from Westwood Unidos and Community Wealth Building Network) to get footage of our community and the budding local economy. They were curious about how an organization that started with building gardens in people's backyards could evolve into an organization concerned with building up the capacity of its residents and creating a local economy.

But, we aren't here to give you any spoilers. You are going to have to check out the documentary when it comes out (no official date, but continue to check-in with us). In the meantime, check out some of the photos from the  film shoot below.