The Cities Summit of the Americas starts today in Denver. Here’s what you can expect

The event runs Monday through Sunday and features a range of roundtables and cultural events.
4 min. read
The Colorado Convention Center seen from atop the Le Meridien Hotel on California Street. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Starting Monday, city leaders and artists from across North, Central and South America as well as from the Caribbean will convene in Denver for the first Cities Summit of the Americas.

The summit is a localized version of the Summit of the Americas, which brings together national leaders from the same regions. Denverites can expect a week full of events and exhibitions from artists, designers and leaders from across the Americas.

The national version of the summit has a controversial history. President Joe Biden declined to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the 2022 Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles over concerns about democracy, prompting a boycott from Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The event has seen protesters in the past, organized by union leaders and activists through a counter-event called the People's Summit.

"This is the first of its kind opportunity for mayors really to come together from across borders and work together in this way," said Biennial of the Americas Executive Director FloraJane DiRienzo. "Denver should be really proud. This is a really proud moment for us, and then we're also excited that there's opportunities for the local community to come together and celebrate what makes our region so special."

It's a chance for public and private sector leaders, including the 250 U.S. and international mayors attending and over 3,000 delegates, to work on goals established at the Summit of the Americas.

"Those mayors are coming together to solve our hemisphere's most challenging problems, but also to build connections and build stronger networks and trade partnerships," DiRienzo said.

This looks like a range of general and invite-only panels, keynote speakers and many roundtables. Topics include energy, mobility and transportation, migration, housing and safety, climate, finance, democracy, health and more.

Speakers include U.S. and international mayors, national leaders like U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. Visiting from outside the Americas will be Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who will make an appearance on a panel about global leadership.

Corporate leaders are included as well. In addition to many banking leaders, Amazon Vice President for Public Policy Brian Huseman is giving a keynote address at an "Investing in Cities" session, while Walmart is co-organizing a "Shark Tank" session where leaders can bring ideas to city mayors (both companies have faced accusations of union-busting and poor labor practices in recent years, including in Colorado).

In a statement, Mayor Michael Hancock said he was looking forward to welcoming leaders to have critical conversations.

"Strengthening democracy and public health, fostering clean energy transitions, meeting environmental challenges, increasing access to critical digital technologies, ensuring the safety and dignity of all migrants, and combatting the spread and influence of disinformation - these are all issues where cities are leading the way, and throughout the week Denver will be at the epicenter of those vital discussions and collaborations," Hancock said in a statement.

The program runs Monday through Sunday, and officially begins with "Canada night," open to the public on Tuesday.

Officials will host a ribbon-cutting to open the Consulate General of Canada in Denver, along with Canadian food and culture on Tuesday. That night is also the opening of the public art installation "Pipelines," an exhibit repurposing underground water and sewer pipes, by Canadian artists  Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster.

Other public events include Fábrica de Arte Américas, a cultural warehouse hosting music, dance, visual art and more; Carvana Americana, hosting Latin American fashion and a closing concert Sunday featuring Colombian band Bomba Estéreo and Mexican artist Gabito Ballesteros.

At Fábrica, events include performances from artists across the world, such as Renata Flores, who brings indigenous Peruvian culture to hop hop, and DJ Sabine Blaizin, who plays music from the African diaspora.

"It's important because it unites all these countries through culture in one same place," said Fábrica curator and producer Sandra Lopes. "We can do all better together, that's the point. Through culture, through art, this is possible.

Some events are free, while others require tickets. You can find the full Cities Summit schedule here.

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