Ask a Native: How can a transplant be a good neighbor?

“How can a newcomer tap into the culture of the neighborhood and join an existing culture instead of bringing a new one?”
5 min. read
Plaza de la Raza at Columbus Park, otherwise known as La Raza Park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) columbus park; la raza park; mural; public art; denver; denverite; kevinjbeaty; colorado;

Plaza de la Raza at Columbus Park, otherwise known as La Raza Park, Northside. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

ASK A Native

Denverite invites native Coloradans to answer questions from Colorado transplants in the “Ask a Native” series. Got a question for a Colorado transplant? You might be interested in our “Ask a Transplant” series. Got a question for a native or a newcomer? Fill out this form.

READER QUESTION: Specifically in Denver's older (traditionally) minority neighborhoods, how can transplants be good neighbors? Is it possible? How can a newcomer tap into the culture of the neighborhood and join an existing culture instead of bringing a new one?

Veronica Montoya, real estate agent and native of Denver's Northside:

Thank you for asking this very important question. It seems that more often than not, people moving into our urban neighborhoods have done so with the idea that it is “transitioning” and will soon be more comfortable for them and hopefully make them lots of money when they are ready to move. That’s one type. The other is someone looking for diversity and to potentially raise a family in an area that is not only socioeconomically diverse but also racially and culturally diverse. If you are asking this question, I’m assuming you are the latter.

As a Realtor, I deal with this question all the time: “Where is the neighborhood that has the most upside?” Translation: “Which neighborhood do you see gentrifying and increasing in value the most?” While there’s no shame in the game, so to speak, when it comes to real estate investing, we must bear in mind that these neighborhoods that are being targeted for re-urbanization/gentrification are filled with people who in many cases have lived there for generations.

I am from the Northside (Highlands, “LoHi”, Berkeley, Sloans Lake, Sunnyside, Chaffee Park, Regis, Harkness Heights, Jefferson Park) in Denver. I can only speak fully to my neighborhood, but this applies to my Eastside and Westside neighbors as well. There are businesses that have served the neighborhood for generations, and there is a proud, rich history of politics, social justice, church communities and schools that have brought people together. Patronize the businesses that have been there and get to know the owners. You will learn a lot about the neighborhood.

Many new neighbors will get involved politically and through that meet a lot of the older neighbors who have been advocates for the community for years. If you’re not the political type, there is always a school event or fundraiser of some sort. If you’re over 21 and you live in North Denver you’ve no doubt attended Totally Tennyson, Sunnyside Music Festival or many other fundraisers for our schools and non-profits. Look for these types of activities in your neighborhood. If there is not an event in your neighborhood, maybe you can start one. If you have children, join the PTA, get involved and meet other parents. If you are religious or enjoy church activities, join a church and get involved.

In North Denver we have “Church Bazaar Season,” and it’s something we Northsiders look forward to. It not only brings the community together but those of us who grew up here look forward to running into old classmates that we only see once a year at these events. I know it's not always easy being the new kid and meeting new people, but church bazaars can be lots of fun with the free-flowing beer and live music.

Finally, I think the best way to tap into the culture of the neighborhood is to simply walk around and say hello to and meet your neighbors, especially the seniors. There is history and a wealth of knowledge to be gained by talking to seniors. They can tell you who lived in your home, what your neighbors do for a living and so much more! Also, if you feel inclined, please do what you can to help those neighbors age in place. This could be something so small as just checking in on them from time to time, shoveling their sidewalks, raking leaves and many other things that seniors find challenging.

The most important thing to remember is that in existing neighborhoods, there are many people who have come before you, and all managed to somehow find their own niche and become part of the fabric of the community. While I think it is good to bring your own culture to your neighborhood, you should also try to assimilate, like many of us have done for years. Respect the existing flavor and culture, and in that you will become your own unique part of the tapestry.

Veronica Montoya (Courtesy photo)

Veronica Montoya is a Realtor with Denver Lifestyle Real Estate providing service in Residential and Commercial Sales and Leasing for over 20 years. She is a North Denver native and lives in her family home with her three dogs, Chango, Bella and Pepe.

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