Café Cultura promotes unity and healing among Indigenous peoples through creative expression while empowering youth to find their voice, reclaim oral and written traditions, and become leaders in their communities.



We believe in the power of story to connect youth to their culture and community.



Rooted in our community, youth, and families and nourished by our traditions, cultures, and languages, Café Cultura grows with courage, respect, and honesty into an organization that promotes sustainability and inspires pride.


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Café Cultura has been providing positive, creative, and engaging community spaces for the Denver metropolitan area for more than thirteen years. The idea for our organization emerged during the summer of 2004 with the passing of respected elder and veteran poet Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado. At that moment, we realized and accepted our responsibility to continue using our oral and written traditions to provide opportunities for creative expression not offered in schools or in the larger community. Café Cultura also drew inspiration from the movement connecting Indigenous people from throughout the Americas.  In that spirit of Red/Brown Unity, we hoped to use creative expression to unify people representing southern Indigenous nations, known by terms such as “Chicana/o,” “Mexicana/o,” and “Latina/o,” with those Natives of northern nations, referred to today as “Native American” or “American Indian.


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Café Cultura hosts one of the best open mic venues in the Denver metropolitan area, and the only space focused on family and youth. We also conduct highly engaging and culturally relevant spoken word/poetry workshops for underserved youth throughout Colorado. Café Cultura partners with select organizations and schools to facilitate an intensive workshop series, publish youth poetry, and organize participant showcases. In an effort to develop young leaders within our community, we also coordinate a youth leadership program for Indigenous youth.


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Dulce Gonzalez (Development Assistant)



Dulce is a work study employee who attends the Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is a biology major hoping to be a Cardiothoracic surgeon someday. She was born and raised in Denver, CO. Dulce is a founder of The Mardale Jay Writing Center, on of the first student led writing center in DPS. The writing center was where she developed her passion for writing and saw writing as a form of power. Becoming a strong writer gave her the power she needed to be a leader and challenge her marginalization as a young woman of color.



Jenny Valadez Fraire (Program Assistant)


Angela possesses a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Philosophy from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, coupled with a legal writing background from the University Of Wyoming College Of Law. Currently, Angela is the Development Director at Servicios de La Raza, where she leads fundraising activities, grant proposals, agency Annual Reports and other marketing materials integral to optimal growth of a healthy nonprofit organization. Angela approaches fundraising as a team activity. She has prepared and coordinated grant proposals and fundraising events to maintain and further develop an agency budget of more than $2.5 million dollars of funding with Servicios de La Raza for 5 years. She is an active board member of Café Cultura. Angela also enjoys music, poetry, being in nature, and watching or engaging in comedy as much as possible.

Astin Lopez (Communication Assistant)


Astin Lopez is a senior at CU Denver in the Recording Arts program from Denver Colorado. He has been with Cafe Cultura since 2015 facilitating the audio for Open Mic events and other special events. He has also overseen the Cafe Cultura YouTube channel as well as other social media platforms. After graduation, he hopes to continue working in the audio and entertainment fields, working in live and studio settings.

Areyana Proctor (Intern)


Areyana is born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Areyana Proctor is a high school student at Noel Community Arts School, one of the many schools in the far northeast district. Areyana has always been drawn to the literature arts of reading and writing which led her to her search for what she wants to pursue in the future. With the art of storytelling always pulling her in and recently exploring what it means to be an activist in her community, Areyana hopes to become a journalist. Through her artistic journey and internships such as Cafe Cultura, she hopes to figure out what story is most important for her to tell.

Ara Cruz (Executive Director) tinyurl.com/aragives

Ara CruzBorn and raised in Denver, Ara Cruz is a Xicano/Indigenous (Nahua/Genizaro Tiwa) spoken word artist, educator, and organizer who finds himself standing on the shoulders of those women and men who have struggled to maintain traditions and dignity. With this strong sense of responsibility, he tries to walk in a good way every day in order to better his community. Graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies (emphasis in Chicana/o and American Indian Studies), he now works with youth in Denver as an educator, advocate, and workshop presenter. Using the experiences he gained in campus and community organizing through MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan), Oyate (Native student group), and other organizations, Ara became a co-founder of Café Cultura in 2004 and serves as Executive Director. Café Cultura empowers youth through spoken word poetry workshops and classes, including a highly regarded open mic night in West Denver. In addition to the organization’s numerous awards, Ara has received a Cesar Chavez Leadership Award and the Mayor’s Diversity and Inclusion Award. He has participated in the National Association of Latino Arts & Culture Leadership Institute and the Denver Foundation’s Executive Directors of Color Institute. He is also completing his Master of Nonprofit Management at Regis University.


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Sofia Jenkins-Nieto


My name is Sofia Jenkins-Nieto and I am a senior at Denver East High School. I am 17 years old, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I identify as Chicana and indigenous to this continent. I am involved clubs and the music program at my school, as well as community activist organizations. My passion is fighting for environmental and social justice within my community.

Joi AKA Junebug Lynch



My name is Joi AKA Junebug Lynch, I am Diné. Tódíchíinii nishłí. Tsi’naajinii báshíshíín. Hashtłshnii dashicheii. Dibe Łizini dashinalí. I am Bitter water born for the Black streak wood people. My maternal grandpa is Mud Clan. My paternal grandpa is Black Sheep. I aspire to be a leader, and to empower and inspire indigenous youth. I am a water protector, an activist and most importantly a Diné woman. I am also Potatoe Champ #1.



Tywania Holly


Yá'át'ééh (Hello) my name is Tywania Holly (nickname Ty), I am from the water-edge clan and the coyote clan and I am from the Navajo tribe from the Four Corners (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado). I am a 17-year-old high school junior student at DSST: College View High School and a regular in some of the after school clubs. Outside of school I participate in leadership groups- Café Cultura and Keystone (at the Boys and Girls Club) - which keeps me busy and helps my community evolve into something better.

Brenda Negrete


My name is Brenda Negrete and I am an 18 year old Mexica woman. Brown, proud, and xingona. I grew up in my struggling community of East Los Angeles that taught me the skills and love I have for helping others to date. Having strong connections with my culture I am determined to become a Lawyer to offer my services to communities such as those that I grew up in, helping the lives of families and children like me and my family.

Nancy Palacios-Casillas


My name is Nancy Palacios-Casillas, I am a senior at Denver East High school. I am president of Latino Students United and involved in different organizations that support student advocacy and activism. I’m in Cafe Cultura Youth Council because I want to gain knowledge and find ways in which we could help our community and schools regarding discrimination and inclusivity. I am also a Danzante in grupo huitzilopochtli, soy bilingue y Mexicana.

Jaqueline Paredes-Arroyo

JaquiMy name is Jaqui I am 16 and I belong to the class of 2019. I am a Mexican American and proud to say so. I like to act in school performances. Acting gives me a chance to be someone I'm not and portray that role on how I see fit. Theatre has changed my life for the better making me more confident in myself.

Maya Contreras

MayaMy name is Maya Contreras, I was born and raised in Denver, Co. I am Sicangu Lakota and Chicana. A varsity athlete and an activist, I aspire to change the world for my people. Brown is Beautiful.


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Alejandro Jimenez



alejandro is spoken word poet, educator, avid distance runner and soccer fanatic from Colima, Mexico. Arriving in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, in 1995, and working as a farm worker for over 10 years in Oregon, he now resides in Denver, CO. Upon becoming the first member in his family to graduate from college he moved to the 'mile high city' to organize for immigrant rights. Now, he works with youth in Northside Denver. Alejandro understands the power of words and the liberation of speaking for oneself instead of being spoken for.




Alexis Vigil

Alexis Vigil






Alexis Vigil







Ara Cruz

Ara Cruz

Born and raised in Denver, Ara Cruz is a Xicano/Indigenous (Nahua/Genizaro Tiwa) spoken word artist, educator, and organizer who finds himself standing on the shoulders of those women and men who have struggled to maintain traditions and dignity. With this strong sense of responsibility, he tries to walk in a good way every day in order to better his community. Graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies (emphasis in Chicana/o and American Indian Studies), he now works with youth in Denver as an educator, advocate, and workshop presenter. Using the experience he gained in campus and community organizing through MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan), Oyate (Native student group), and other organizations, Ara became a co-founder of Café Cultura and now serves Executive Director. Knowing his talents are a gift from Ometeotl, the Creator, he has shared his flor y canto (flower and song) with people of all ages. Through his poetry, he attempts to place a smoking mirror in front of his people and society in general, in an effort to make all of us think, speak, and act in positive ways.

Bobby LeFebre


Bobby LeFebre is an award-winning writer, performer, and cultural worker from Denver, Colorado. He is a two-time Grand Slam Champion, a National Poetry Slam Finalist, an Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, and a two-time TEDx speaker. His work has been showcased nationally and internationally on NPR, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian, and the LA Times. LeFebre has performed at hundreds of cultural events, social actions, detention centers, conferences, and colleges and universities across the United States and abroad. He is co-founder of Café Cultura, a non-profit organization that uses poetry as a tool for youth development and he is also founder of #WeAreNorthDenver, a grassroots and digital campaign dedicated to using art as an entry point for discussing gentrification in Denver. LeFebre has been named a 100 Colorado creative by Westword Magazine, is a National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures fellow, and has recently been appointed by the Mayor of Denver to serve as the Co-Chair of the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Metro State University and a master’s degree in Art, Literature, and Culture from the University of Denver.



Diego is an Observer, poet, artist, and musician from North Denver. He has been sharing his art as a career for about 3 years now. Cafe Cultura was one of the first open mics he ever went to. After seeing poets like Ara Cruz, Bobby Lefebre, and Innocencio Ox Mendoza, he was inspired to write his own poetry and do work in and for his community.







Denver born poet utilizes her cultural (Dine’, San Felipe Pueblo and Mexikah) backgrounds as inspiration for her spoken word, environmental activism, and collaboration with various Indigenous and LGBTQ communities. Eden is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences while she raises her three sons.




Franklin Cruz

Franklin Cruz

Franklin Cruz is a Latino queer poet living in Denver currently in a biology program at Metropolitan State University. The shy kid who learned the power of his own voice, Franklin has performed throughout the country from the Southwest region, coast to coast. An alumni of Minor Disturbance a youth poetry slam team that has won Brave New Voices an international youth competition, Slam Nuba and Mercury Café both adult slam teams and Café Cultura, a grassroots indigenous spoken word artist collective. He has also taught and performed at Universities across Colorado including CU Boulder, UNC, CSU, Denver University, Colorado School of Mines, CU Denver and more. Franklin's poetry reflects on being a first generation child of immigrant parents, being a brown queer child in a heteronormative patriarchy, and recalling the traditional indigenous faith of curanderismo. Franklin's aims to work in social profit sector and is leading to a cross disciplinary STEAM career using poetry as advocacy for social change, scientific education/awareness and personal mental health practices.

Flor Marquez

Flor Marquez












Hannabah Blue

Hannabah BlueHannabah Blue is Diné (Navajo), originally from Kirtland, New Mexico. Ms. Blue has a breadth of experience working in public health, particularly addressing health disparities affecting Native and LGBTQ+ communities. Currently, as a Consultant with John Snow, Inc., she provides technical assistance nationwide on various public health projects. Previously, she has supported organizations regionally and nationally in improving tribal health as the Public Health Services Project Manager at the American Indian Public Health Resource Center and as a capacity building assistance specialist at the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center. Ms. Blue has an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism and in gender and sexuality studies from New York University and a Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Graduate Certificate focusing on Native women through the University of Arizona. She earned a Master of Science degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, with concentrations in women, gender, and maternal and child health.


JozerJozer is a professional Poet, Actor, and Hip-Hop artist based in Denver, CO. His work tackles tough political issues such as immigration discrimination, racial inequalities, and police brutality. His work has landed him features on HBO, PBS, Button Poetry, TED Talks, and has been reviewed by the L.A Times and American Theatre Magazine. He also placed 3rd in the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2013, and has placed in the top 15 last two years. When he is not performing, he educates and inspires youth teaching poetry and teatro courses to students of all ages.

Marisela Zepeda

Marisela Zepeda

Born in the state of Illinois but raised in Aurora, CO, Marisela Zepeda had no problem making the state home. She fell in love with creative writing since the first short story she wrote at the age of 15. A couple of years after, she wrote a poem entitled "Individuality." This poem was published later in an anthology that was distributed to select colleges across the U.S. Although she took a break from writing, she started up again about 5 years ago working with a nonprofit organization called Café Cultura. Since then, she has been working on her collection of pieces that will later turn into a book.

Tanaya Winder

Tanaya Winder

Tanaya Winder is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and performance poet from the Southern Ute, Shoshone, and Paiute Nations. She grew up on the Southern Ute Indian reservation and attended college at Stanford University where she earned a BA in English. After college, she pursued her passion of poetry and received her graduate degree a MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. She published her first book Words Like Love in 2015. Tanaya founded Dream Warriors, an Indigenous artist management company, co-founded As/Us: A Space for Women of the World, and created the Sing Our Rivers Red traveling earring exhibit to raise awareness about murdered and missing indigenous women. Tanaya guest lectures, teaches creative writing workshops, and speaks at high schools, universities, and communities internationally.


Vanessa Lacayo

Vanessa Lacayo

Growing up alongside her grandfather, poet Lalo Delgado, Vanessa Lacayo became socially conscious to the issues facing Latinos/as. She also learned how the arts can empower communities, which is one of the sole reasons she continues to write and be an active member in her community. She has a Bachelor of Art's degree in journalism and mass communication from Metropolitan State University and a Master's degree in communication from the University of Colorado at Denver. She works as a public affairs specialist for the National Park Service.


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Alicia Lucero

AliciaAlicia Lucero


Monique Left Hand Bull

MoniqueMonique Left Hand Bull

Victoria Paige Gonzalez




Victoria Paige Gonzalez is a visual artist who works with photography, ceramics and installation. She has been exploring representations of Nepantla, a Nahuatl term for in-between. She uses the garden, shadows, and light as a metaphor for understanding imposing boundaries and ones we self-inflict. Her work has been exhibited in Boston and Houston galleries such as, Houston Center for Photography, Alabama Song, Blaffer Museum and Suffolk University. Her series, "Pleasure Kitchen", was selected as the 2015 Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship Honorable Mention.




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