What does it mean to be Latino? Ask a dozen people and you are likely to receive a dozen different answers.

"That's why I like the term Latino, because it's universal," said the Hon. Jose D.L. (Lorenzo) Marquez, who was the first Latino appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals in 1998 and served there for 20 years. "I don't care if you're from Spain or Mexico or Argentina. We have a commonality."

For Hispanic Heritage month, which begins today, Viva Colorado is celebrating both that commonality and that diversity with a special portrait series of Latinos in our community from Viva Colorado photographer Manuel Martinez.

Judge Marquez and his daughter, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Monica Marquez, were among the subjects Martinez photographed to express and to celebrate who we are and how far we've come as a people. They are part of the group we've dubbed "Those Who Serve."

Those Who Serve

'I have two countries that I can say I'm part of. It's my heritage. I served as an American. I was born of an American mother. I'm proud to be American.'


- Manuel Valenzuela, 59, Marine, Vietnam Veteran, born in Mexico, left, with his brother, Valente Valenzuela, Army.

'My going to college and doing something with my life really changed the norm in my family so that pretty much all my nephews and nieces now have gone to college, and I see that my family trajectory has changed. It has had a true trickle down economic effect.'

- Sen. Irene Aguilar, M.D., 51

'I think everyone who succeeds or maybe gets a step further kind of helps the next guy, sort of a stepping stone for future generations. Someday maybe we'll have a Latino governor. Maybe someday we'll have a Latino president, although I don't wish that on anybody.'

Hon. Jose D.L. (Lorenzo) Marquez, 69

'How remarkable it is for me to be able to say that I am a second-generation Latino appellate judge. I mean wow. How many people can say that? My father was able to be the first Latino on the court of appeals. I have been blessed to be the first Latina on the court. But he made it possible for me.'

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Monica Marquez, 42

'I've been following this spiritual road for 31 years. I'm doing it for future generations, like a custodian holding the door open. And when they do pick this up, it makes me very happy and very proud. All the years we've been doing this, it's going to be OK. It's going to continue on.'

- Carlos Castañeda, 54, Director, Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca with Donna Vigil-Castañeda, 49, Director, Grupo Tlaloc Danza Azteca

'(As a result of my work with Latinos) I've learned a deeper appreciation for the importance of family. I've learned about their generosity of spirit. It has taught me to be very patient, very forgiving. They have a joy about how they approach life that's really infectious. In Colombia I saw a man who came to church every day for a whole year. Finally he said, 'Today I understood you for the first time.' Holy cow. He was able to see beyond my faulty language and saw something more. They embraced me, they've cared for me. They've taught me how to be a priest.'

- Rev. Monsignor Bernard A. Schmitz, 63

We want to hear from you!

How do you define yourself? As Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, American? And what does that definition mean to you? What makes it true? Maybe even tell us what makes you most proud - as a Latino or just as a person. And finally, what would you like to impart to the next generation?

We'll publish the best responses.

Email your letters at noticias@VivaColorado.com.