Appreciation celebration |

Appreciation celebration

Natalia, left, and Tatiana Ruiz, right, perform a traditional Colombian dance, with musical accompaniment from Victor and Matteo Lozano, Sunday night at the Cross Creek Condominiums clubhouse in Frisco. The Lozano family and other local Latin Americans organized a thank you party for Frisco's elected officials and the committee that organized the first Fiesta Frisco this summer.

FRISCO – Margarita Lozano shook her shoulders and hips to the Colombian music her husband, Victor, brought to life with a wooden flute. Her crew-cut hair and short stature made the warmth in her brown eyes all the more noticeable as she yelled out, “Viva Colombia” from the dance floor.

The Lozanos wanted to share their appreciation for the recognition they received at this summer’s first Fiesta Frisco.

So, they cooked a traditional chicken soup and rice dinner for about 40 people – including Fiesta Frisco committee members – at the Cross Creek Condominiums clubhouse in Frisco Sunday. Then, they danced and sang.

The main message they wanted to convey was: Colombians exist in Summit County.

“We’re trying to destroy the mentality that Latin people are just Mexican,” said 19-year-old Natalia Ruiz, one of Margarita Lozano’s five children. “We have a lot to give and a lot to receive (in the way of) respect. The mind(set) we come just for economic stuff is not true. Most people have violence (in Colombia) – like our city is going down, and even though the government is trying to make it better, it’s making it worse.”

The Lozano’s emigrated from San Bernardo, a small town in Colombia. Margarita Lozano was the mayor of the town, and Victor Lozano was a journalist.

Both spoke out against the guerrilla presence in the country, but their outspoken political views brought a threat to their own – and their children’s – safety. Margarita went to Miami for six months, where she met a family who wanted a housekeeper in Breckenridge. She and her family have lived in Summit County for the past five years.

And they’re not the only Colombians who have moved to Summit County to escape political injustice.

“This country has the best opportunities,” said Clara Johnson, an operations supervisor at Breckenridge who moved from Colombia three years ago. “In my country, it’s hard because we have war all the time.

“I like everything here. The people are so nice, but I want American people to know who we really are. It’s not only drugs in the country. It’s not only war.”

The message “See who we really are” was prevalent Sunday, from the spoken words to the traditional food and dance.

“This is for people to know Colombians are very different from Mexican people – no better, no worse, but different,” said Johana Luna, an operations supervisor at Keystone who moved from Colombia to Summit County two years ago. “We’re trying to let people know Colombian people exist here in Summit County.”

This summer’s Fiesta Frisco helped further the visibility of Latin Americans in Summit County. The fiesta showcased food, song and dance of Latin Americans.

Frisco Mayor Bob Moscatelli came up with a festival in honor of Latinos in summer 2002 when he saw a man – who he later learned was Victor Gonzales – dressed in a black cowboy hat and boots, white pants and a red shirt at the Barbecue Challenge.

“I saw how proud he was of his Mexican culture,” Moscatelli said.

It inspired Moscatelli and a committee of about eight people to organize the Frisco Fiesta.

“We wonder why we didn’t do it sooner,” he said. “It was the first time we reached out to the Latino community.”

And, they reached back with the appreciation dinner.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at

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