In the 1960s, the giant CF&I steel plant on the southern end of Pueblo was the economic driving engine and racial equalizer for Colorado’s southernmost major city.
Former Pueblo city council president Ray Aguilera, in his early 20s during the mill’s last heyday as a large-scale employer, recalls wives dropping their husbands – Latinos, Italians, Slovenians – at the tunnel entrance leading under the roadway to the 7,000 lucrative jobs on the other side. The work often did not require college degrees or even high school diplomas.“Why would anybody want to go college when you can go out to the mill and make (today’s equivalent of) $60,000, $70,000 a year,” Aguilera said.
The towering steel mill stacks and their billowing clouds of smoke were symbols of a unique prosperity, one in which the smelter was a melting pot in more ways than one.
When the city’s soldiers, sailors and Marines returned from War World II, they all expected a fair shake from Pueblo’s major employer. Soon, the mill’s segregated showers for whites and Latinos disappeared. Show more text →