(1) Community Voices Guest Commentary by Judge Juan G. Villaseñor
(2) Free Event! (Webinar) “The Impact of COVID-19 on Larimer County’s Justice System” by Judge Villaseñor on August 16. See details below.
Larimer County’s First Latino District Court Judge: Juan G. Villaseñor
Growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, I never imagined that I’d be the first lawyer in my family or the first Latino district judge in Larimer County. While my grandmother wanted me to be an architect or an engineer, she would’ve been proud that I became a judge!
I immigrated to the United States when I was 15 years old, to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a natural choice for my family because my grandfather and several of his siblings had settled there in the 1950s. He’s part of San Francisco’s history: he started La Victoria, the first Mexican bakery in the Mission District, the city’s Latino enclave.
Knowing little English when I arrived to California, it was very difficult for me to adjust to my new country. But one of my greatest traits is adaptability. As an immigrant, it’s an essential trait that you must have to learn to navigate a completely different culture, language, and more. So, I felt that the U.S. was my oyster, waiting for me to explore it. And explore I did!
Before moving to Colorado and Fort Collins in 2012, I lived in several states. At this point, I’ve lived in nearly every region of this great country. I can safely say that Colorado is, by far, my favorite state and the one where I’ve lived the longest. I’ve set roots here: my eight-year-old son is a native, my wife works here as do I, and our two other children go to school here. Fort Collins is an easy place to love, with its many outdoor events and easy access to natural spaces and rivers.
Fort Collins also has been very welcoming. I exclusively speak Spanish to my son, who frustratingly responds back in English, and people who hear us are very supportive and impressed.
But 100 years ago, this community wasn’t as welcoming to Latinos, who had originally settled here in 1858, about 18 years before Colorado was admitted to the United States. Latinos lived north of downtown Fort Collins, in the Tres Colonias neighborhood. It’s widely known that when they visited Old Town, they experienced discrimination. This history is well documented by our own Museum of Discovery and the Poudre River Public Library District: “Store windows displayed signs reading ‘No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed.’ Teachers often sat Hispanic students in the back of the classroom.”
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since those days. Like the Latino families who settled here, I hope to continue to be part of Fort Collins’ vibrant Latino culture. But more work needs to be done. Latinos make up approximately 12% of Fort Collins’ population and it’s very important to engage them in our amazing community. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fortcollinscitycolorado
As a district judge, I do my part by creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere in my courtroom for anyone who has a case before me. I’m also engaged in our community, giving presentations at Colorado State University and other places. It’s important that young Latinos see someone like them in a leadership role.
I love Fort Collins and what it offers and I’m extremely proud and humbled to serve as a district court judge. For me, every day is an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and to serve my community. It’s a duty I cherish and take very seriously.
Judge Juan G. Villaseñor is a district judge in the Eighth Judicial District based in Fort Collins. Before his appointment to the bench, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and as a public board member on the Colorado Medical Board.
Judge Villaseñor is engaged in several law-related community activities, like speaking to undergraduate business-school students at Colorado State University. Read more at the Colorado Judicial Branch website.
FREE EVENT online via Zoom! Join Diverse Fort Collins and Judge Juan G. Villaseñor on Sunday, August 16 at 3 p.m. for a 30-minute presentation on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Larimer County’s Justice System” followed by Q&A. Register at www.DiverseFortCollins.com/events
Diverse Fort Collins is a volunteer-driven community project connecting people with resources and each other.
Let’s co-create an inclusive community! All welcome!