Pride, success and accomplishments: Three Hispanic influencers share their stories

Story and photos by LINA SONG

The Hispanic community is not only continuing to grow across the United States but also making many accomplishments that shape the community for the better. A former member of the Utah State House of Representatives and two students attending the University of Utah share their thoughts about the achievements they built for their community in Utah. The three members of the Hispanic community have contributed their talents, dedication, and success to improve and make a change.

Rebecca Chavez-Houck

Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a former member of the Utah State House of Representatives, explains her journey of breaking the stereotypes imposed on Hispanic woman. 

Chavez-Houck’s journey started after she graduated from the University of Utah in 1982 and worked for a small newspaper firm in Wyoming. After working there, she moved back to Utah and started working in public relations. As she was getting into politics, she realized that the legislature did not represent the community in Utah.

In order to represent the Hispanic community, Chavez-Houck was elected to become one of the member in the Utah State House. By being a woman in a male-dominated industry, she was able to break the public’s notion of a representative being a white male. Chavez-Houck discussed the Latin phrase “Vox Populi,” which means the “voice of the people.” She always remembered this phrase when she was working as a member of the House.

“I was the conduit to make change and to be that voice,” Chavez-Houck said proudly. “We were there to be the voices of the people.”

The influence of her parents helped her realize the importance of education and supporting one another within a community. By using her journalist side through being an observer and by understanding her views and being self-critical, Chavez-Houck accomplished to accentuate the Hispanic community’s strengths.

Neida Munguia

Neida Munguia, a sophomore at the University of Utah, was born in Salt Lake City but was raised in New Jersey. Munguia’s parents are from Michoacán in Mexico. Munguia grew up in a very diverse community. She returned to Utah for high school. During those years, she was the head of multiple Latin clubs. Munguia was most active in the club Latinos In Action and continues to participate to this day.

“Since LIA took off in Utah, I was able to help our sister programs in Florida, Texas, Idaho, and California take off as a resource appointed by LIA.” Munguia said.

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Munguia believes that her community has flourished and enriched the United States which brings a sense of familiarity.

Munguia discussed the events that she started while she was in high school. The first event was the “Dia de Los Muertos” dance, which was created in order to portray the beauty of celebration for the day of the dead in Mexico. Another event was the implementation of day care for parents with young children during school events. They included providing translation services and offering tutoring to the parents. Through these achievements, Munguia wants to show and remind students within her community that they are capable of great things. By carrying out her passion, she built stronger ties and helped her organization and the community move forward for the better.

“The fact that as a community we slowly see the importance of education is a success beyond our wildest dreams,” Munguia said. “My whole purpose of starting the festivals, dances, and after-school activities was to empower my students.”

Jesus Jimenez-Vivanco

Jesus Jimenez-Vivanco, a freshman at the U, grew up in West Valley City, Utah. He is the first in his family to graduate high school and attend university.

Jimenez-Vivanco believes the biggest accomplishment his community has made is speaking up and breaking certain stereotypes. He gives the example of himself and his friends attending university and studying diverse subjects. Jimenez-Vivanco also said he feels prideful that his father works for the construction department and helped build many of the buildings at the U.

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Jimenez-Vivanco said many people view the Hispanic community negatively but in reality people work hard and are generous to others.

By realizing the importance of education, Jimenez-Vivanco always reminds his younger sisters to appreciate their education and fight for what is right. He believes that by influencing his sisters, other people within the community will pass on their moral beliefs and values. Jimenez-Vivanco said he hopes that he will be able to show the strengths of his community by being honest and hard working.

“Many Hispanics rise up in politics here (Utah), whether it’s immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and many more. They speak up and fight for what’s right,” Jimenez-Vivanco said. “I am giving a good name for my community by helping others and taking my skills to the next level — something that everyone should do, not just people in one community, but all of them to make the world a better place.”