One Latinx drag artist’s journey and integration of QTBIPOC spaces in Salt Lake City

Story and photo by JASMINE BARLOW

*Editor’s Note: QTBIPOC represents an acronym for Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous, People of Color.

Salt Lake City is making strides in opening diverse, engaging spaces for QTBIPOC artists and youth to express themselves in a variety of art, healing, and community programs.

Justice Legacy, a 20-year-old Latinx drag artist (pronouns: they/them), has passionately immersed themself into such spaces, honing and experimenting with their craft and personas. Featured as a performer across several venues, including the Utah Pride Center and Queer Haven SLC, their “coming-of-stage” story is steeped in courage, vitality, and being true to oneself.

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Complexities surrounding Legacy’s upbringing weren’t always so glamorous. “I didn’t grow up with my biological father,” Legacy says. “He was an alcoholic, so our mom kicked him out because she didn’t really want that negativity around us. He was eventually deported to Mexico, so I grew up with my mother and my sister’s father.”

Reflecting on this change, Legacy realized that the absence of their father meant an absence of their Latinx roots. “Since I didn’t grow up with my dad, he carried the Hispanic side because my mom is white,” they says. “Although my sister’s dad was of Mexican descent, I was dipped into [Latinx culture] more than completely engulfed. I feel I have been ripped from a culture I really wanted to be a part of.”

Aching to rekindle this part of their identity, Legacy recently began teaching themself Spanish, learning more deeply about Latinx culture, and discovering what it means to be Latinx. For example, their primary onstage persona derives from traditional beauty ideals of Latinx women. “[My Latinx background] has definitely played into my look the most,” Legacy says. “I love the long black hair, bold red lips; very Selena!”

Sexuality and gender expression, another major aspect of Legacy’s identity, was explored at a young age. However, it wasn’t always met with acceptance. “If I wanted a Barbie or something not necessarily made for a boy, it was almost always met with a ‘no,’” Legacy says. “It was because my [father figure] wasn’t very accepting with what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be.” On the other hand, Legacy’s mother responded differently. “My mom grew and adapted, so I didn’t really have to come out to her. She always knew.”

It was in high school that exploration began to manifest as outward expression. “In high school, I did not understand my gender or who I wanted to be, so I came out as gender fluid,” Legacy says. “Basically, I wanted to wake up every day and dress as the gender I felt.”

The transition of gender fluidity subsequently sparked an interest in pursuing drag and makeup artistry. “I eventually came to realize that I want to identify as male, and use drag to express my feminine side,” Legacy says. “My styling is all self-taught. I woke up one morning and I was like ‘I wanna be a hairstylist, a makeup artist, all of it.’ I started practicing makeup, and my mom showed me.”

A big break emerged for Legacy when they were invited to perform at Queer Prom, an annual LGBTQ+ youth dance hosted by the Utah Pride Center (UPC). “I was ecstatic,” Legacy says. “I ordered a really good wig, and I thought I would splurge on my outfit.” The invitation also evoked feelings of nervousness, as it was one of UPC’s major events during the year and the young artist was fairly new to the drag performance industry.

Ultimately, it proved to be one of the most memorable, life-changing performances up to date. “It was a really crazy awakening,” Legacy says. “They asked me to stand by the photo booth, and people would come up and say: ‘You are such an inspiration, it’s so amazing what you do, you are so gorgeous.’ I couldn’t believe the impact I was making.”

Following the Queer Prom experience, Justice Legacy was invited to perform at other UPC events, including Masqueerade and another year of Queer Prom, as well as Queer Haven shows hosted at the Beerhive.

When asked about the inspiration behind the name “Justice Legacy,” it came from an affinity for “strong powerful heroines” and a twist of the “Justice League” series title. “It felt like a perfect name for me,” Legacy says. “I wanted to feel like Wonder Woman or Power Girl.”

If Legacy could go back in time, they would want to let their younger self know how much power they truly hold. “Sometimes I get too much into my head. I had really bad anxiety in high school,” Legacy says. “I would remind myself that where my mind is taking me to is not actually going to happen. It still takes a lot of reminding myself now that everything is going to be OK.”

Justice Legacy commends the amazing love, support, and authenticity imbued in the city’s queer spaces for supporting their journey.

Existimos is an inclusive, artistic community devoted to supporting QTBIPOC individuals like Justice Legacy. “We created Existimos because we wanted more art-focused spaces and events made for diverse and marginalized communities in [Salt Lake City],” says Graciela Campos, co-founder of Existimos with her sister, Patricia. “We just wanted our own community space that was ours.”

In response to how the broader Utah community can better serve the interests and needs of Latinx artists, Campos encourages tangible, meaningful action steps. “Buy art from them, hire them for gigs, go to local shows, pass the mic,” Campos says in an email interview. “Sometimes the broader art community only cares about what’s happening in bigger organizations or the biggest institutions where, honestly, a lot of local artists are better than what you see in museums and more diverse.”

To gain exposure and find more resources, Existimos decided to participate in Utah’s annual 2019 summer Pride event for the first time, despite the “crunch time” to make it happen. “We worked with local creatives Clover and Marqueza to plan it because we wanted more views and opinions,” Campos says. “My sister and I can’t speak for everyone in the QTBIPOC community.”

Campos believes that Pride should be a celebration about “community and existing unapologetically.” “[It] isn’t about cute slogans or pricey merch[andise] or rainbows everywhere,” she says.

Campos has a deep purpose and yearning for starting Existimos and creating the dynamic it is today. “I think [QTBIPOC] want to be in a space where they feel loved and accepted,” she says. “A space where they meet fellow creatives and feel inspired. A place to escape from the harsh realities they deal with. At the end of the day, they just want to find love and a sense of family and I believe we bring that.”

Running and maintaining the space (located at 7677 S. Main St. in Midvale) can be challenging: from working a day job, to balancing all of the responsibilities with a personal life. Funding the space seems to be the most pressing challenge. “We have a GoFundMe that everyone should check out and spread. It gives us funding to keep the space open every month,” Campos says.

Despite these challenges, the events reportedly turn out to be an intimate, heart-warming experience for everyone involved. “We don’t really care about turnouts or calculate those types of things,” Campos says. “We hold Zumba classes to like eight people and those are so uplifting. We have dance parties, movie nights, and art shows. We don’t care who shows up as long as people know there is space for them and they feel at ease and welcomed.”

For QTBIPOC feeling disempowered and struggling to find their voices, Campos imparts a message of hope: “There is a community out there, and it does get better. No one can ever be you, and the world would be less bright without you. So be authentically yourself.”

Kilby Court provides venue for emerging artists

Story and photos by LIAM ELKINGTON

Tucked into a corner just outside of downtown Salt Lake City, Kilby Court sits at the end of an unassuming street with hardly any indication that a music venue is there. The décor has a homemade feel, with walls covered in posters and stickers. While the venue is inconspicuous, Kilby Court’s small size combined with its active promotion of small acts has made it a staple of the local music scene.

Named after its location at 741 S. Kilby Court, Kilby Court promotes itself as “Salt Lake City’s longest running all-ages venue,” and “a springboard stage for beginning local and touring artists alike.”  

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Kilby Court welcomes artists both local and touring.

Salt Lake City resident Brittany Burrahm praised Kilby Court in an email interview, saying that the venue was “professional, yet still felt personal. It’s one of the better concert venues I’ve been to.”

The types of musical acts one can expect to see at Kilby Court vary widely. Bands from nearly every genre of popular music have performed at Kilby Court, from Hip Hop to Indie to Punk Rock. Performances are booked nearly every night of the week and represent the range of musical talent present in Salt Lake City. Upcoming shows at the venue are frequently promoted on other well-known community platforms like the radio station KRCL and SLUG Magazine.

While there are many venues in Salt Lake City, they vary in their accessibility. Kilby Court’s size, location and do-it-yourself philosophy allows for an all-ages venue with ticket prices rarely exceeding $20. Kilby Court has also been known to host lesser-known bands that go on to achieve greater acclaim, such as Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw and George Watsky

Kilby Court is owned by Sartain and Saunders, a promotional and event planning company that collaborates with venues, concert halls and restaurants within Salt Lake City to book and promote events. S&S also own Urban Lounge and Metro Music Hall, two other venues that host a variety of musical acts, including local artists.

Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Kilby Court has joined many other Salt Lake City venues in postponing or canceling all events through early May, providing refunds to those who had already purchased tickets. Rescheduling information is not currently available, although the venue does intend to continue with the Kilby Court Block Party event scheduled for May 2, an all-day event that is slated to feature over 20 local bands.

Offering a flexibility of function that is not as commonly seen in other Salt Lake City venues, Kilby Court can adapt its space for various conditions. The interior space is little more than a garage, and one of the walls can open up into a courtyard featuring a fire pit and seating. Kilby Court operates throughout the year, able to repurpose the relatively limited space to different crowd sizes and outdoor conditions.

The size of Kilby Court is often brought up in reviews for the venue, and is primarily cited as a positive feature of the space, allowing for a more intimate show for both performers and audience members. Reviews on Kilby Court’s Facebook page praise this aspect of its concert experience. Reviewer Tristan Marie Montano said in 2018, “I live for intimate venues like this where everyone feels like they are a part of everything going on.”

Salt Lake City resident Burrahm found it easy to recommend Kilby Court for this reason. “It’s a bit cramped but they do a good job with the space they have. It’s a cozy experience and the sound quality is great.”

Kilby Court is focused on providing a professional and memorable experience for Salt Lake City concert-goers. Venues also play a significant role in the success of a performance. “It allows the audience to get a really close-up and personal contact with the musicians, which is important, rather than them being so high up on a stage. It’s like you’re on the same level,” said Kendra Squire, a musician who has been performing in the Salt Lake and Provo areas for the past few years. She spoke about performing at other venues in Salt Lake City, stating that communication between artists and organizers is key to producing events that are successful.

Having a venue that supports local, independent artists is vital to those who rely on them as an outlet to a broader scene. “It’s community building,” Squire said. “If people that are trying to start up have nowhere to go, then that becomes the whole question: where do they go?”

Kilby Court not only provides a stage for artists that encourages local audience engagement, but also a place for notable touring artists to reach a larger number of people. Kilby Court stands alone in the Salt Lake City community as a venue dedicated to the promotion and celebration of artists who may not otherwise have an opportunity to perform for a large audience. Having these types of spaces fosters a community that supports musicians, no matter their goals for performing. “I don’t think that every musician or band necessarily wants to make it big,” Squire said. “I think a lot of people just want someone to hear.”

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KRCL uses music exploration to connect communities

Story and photos by LIAM ELKINGTON

When tuning in to 90.9 FM, it’s usually hard to determine exactly what you’re going to hear. Depending on the time of day, you might hear lively conversations with activists, updates on local events or a varied, eclectic selection of carefully curated music. KRCL aims to provide a place where Salt Lake City residents can get connected with their community through programming that promotes exploration of culture, music and politics.

Located at 1971 W. North Temple, KRCL was founded in 1979 with the goal of providing Utahns with a community platform for discussing ideas that were important to them. With over four decades on the air, KRCL is still community owned.

KRCL has been broadcasting since 1979.

Part of being a community-owned platform is representing those community members. “Salt Lake City is growing and culturally diversifying, and as a community radio station, we seek to be a reflection of the people who call this place home,” said Tristin Tabish, general manager of KRCL, in an email interview.

Diversity is represented on KRCL through its programming, especially the music that gets played over the air. A far cry from typical Top-40 hits, KRCL’s music ranges from classic to obscure with genre-specific shows that focus on exploring the depth of styles that don’t often get heard on public radio. “Smile Jamaica” highlights reggae artists both old and new, and the “Fret ’n’ Fiddle” program celebrates the authentic American sounds of bluegrass.

Deciding what gets aired usually starts from a place of passion for a specific style of music. “Oftentimes a new show starts with a deep love and knowledge of music. Someone who has been collecting vintage surf rock records for decades might pitch a show that features music from their collection,” Tabish said.

Shows can feature genres like psychedelic, bluegrass, heavy metal, world music or even just a mix of music that the KRCL staff find to be compelling. This dedication to providing a platform for unique music has garnered KRCL a reputation among listeners for being the place to go when they want to experience new music. “It’s important that hosts are able to connect with listeners through their love of music,” Tabish said.

Aside from being interesting or entertaining, the music played on KRCL aids its mission of representing the voices present in Utah communities. Tabish discussed how it is important to have a radio station that can represent the growing diversity of Salt Lake City. “The voices you hear on the station are everyday folks who are passionate about sharing their love of music and they’re invested in helping to build a more vibrant and inclusive community. That means you’ll hear music from bands living here in Utah alongside emerging artists from Mexico City and beyond,” she said.

KRCL recognizes that there are more ways to connect a community than simply through a shared love of music. The station features several programs designed to bring to light issues facing the people of Utah, and spotlights those who are invested in addressing them. One of these programs is “RadioACTive,” a show that airs daily and strives to encourage civic involvement through hosting conversations that deal with topics important to local listeners. “The conversation ranges from urban farming and food security to poverty and human rights,” Tabish said.

KRCL uses music to connect with the community.

With it being an election year, “RadioACTive” plans to increase the number of shows that focus on things like voting as well as participating in the 2020 census. “RadioACTive” airs every day at 6 p.m.

After all of this, merely playing diverse music and talking about community issues isn’t enough for KRCL. It is constantly using the platform to promote local nonprofit organizations, events and businesses. The “KRCL Presents” series is used to promote up-and-coming artists through concerts, as well as on-air events. Tabish recalled a specific instance of KRCL’s community involvement. “A few years ago, we held a rally at the Utah State Capitol to commemorate International Women’s Day,” she said. “That gathering was incredibly meaningful to women and their supporters who have ever felt silenced or inferior.”

Being a community-owned and -operated radio station doesn’t come without its challenges. With a lack of traditional funding, KRCL relies almost entirely on donations from organizations as well as individual listeners in order to keep things running. “As an independent radio station, funding is always a challenge — almost 80% of the station’s yearly operating budget comes from our listening community,” Tabish said. 

KRCL annually hosts a “Radiothon” with the goal of raising funding to support the station. This event among many others that support KRCL rely heavily on volunteer support. Those with an interest in contributing time to the station are encouraged to contact volunteer coordinator Eric Nelson (ericn@krcl.org) to learn more about how they can help out.

KRCL is more than a place to discover new music and listen to talk shows. As an independent, nonprofit and community-owned station it aims to represent all aspects of Utah life. The programs are designed to explore ideas and bring attention to issues that are facing the places where we live. KRCL occupies a unique space in Salt Lake City’s media landscape that isn’t filled by any other radio station.

Back to the Basics

A portfolio of three artists in Salt Lake City pushing their craft to the next level

Story by ROBERTO ELGUERA

Grabbing a quick bite from the drive-through, Chris Peterson is ready to go with his Denali and trailer full of his art equipment to take on his next job. 

With two master’s degrees in nonprofit and environmental policy and in environmental humanities, Peterson has his eyes set on getting back in the studio. He’s had plenty of years working in art programs such as the Road Home Mural Fence, the Colorado River Restoration, and THE BLOCKS.

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Edison & Broadway Mural by Chris Peterson. Photo by Roberto Elguera.

You never stop working as an artist. That’s because the inspiration is endless. For Peterson, he gets his inspiration from his love of wildlife. The Edison & Broadway mural is an example of that. Located in the alleyway between Broadway and 200 South in Salt Lake City, the mural displays some of Utah’s best assets — our booming city life, and our beautiful outdoors. On this piece, there are images of bears, bison, elk, and Utah’s trademark, the honeybee. In the middle, you see the heart of downtown surrounded by the famous snowy mountain ranges.

“It’s a great time to be a muralist in Utah,” Peterson said in a phone interview. Now having plenty of pieces under his belt around Salt Lake City, he believes that more art should be installed along the Wasatch Front. 

Sometimes that drive to push one’s limits to the next level can come in a number of ways. For Justin Johnson, it’s watching his son practice his lettering. He wants to go back to the essence of graffiti. “You practice your ABCs and I’ll do the same,” Johnson said. 

Painting and drawing were always a part of Johnson’s life. But when he turned 18, he was introduced to a spray can. That would take his art in a new direction. 

Early on, Johnson made pieces that were influenced by Hip-Hop and Punk culture. Themes of anti-establishment were prominent in his early pieces. Through the years his methods evolved and his art yet again took another direction. Now it’s about social justice. Johnson’s stance for a better community is visible, notably in the Road Home project. This painted mural fence was constructed to protect the children from being exposed to violent crime and drug trafficking common on the corner of 200 South and 500 West. On his side of the fence, Johnson wrote, “Hope for the future gives us strength for today.” 

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Road Home Mural Fence. Photo courtesy of Justin Johnson.

This need for change and art went hand in hand. Johnson’s dedication led him to be a part of the Hartland Community 4 Youth and Family board. He had a hand in setting up activities and community projects for youth in the Glendale neighborhood. In between board service he was doing graphic design and commission work. He and his crew were taking on at least five major projects a year. This work entailed planning and designing installations for Das Energi and flying across to Nevada for Elko Mural Expo. This hard work kept their skills honed, but they didn’t forget to have fun. 

For his son’s room, he installed a Pokémon-inspired mural. “It was so nice to paint from the heart, at my own pace, and with total freedom on content and style,” Johnson said. 

Humberto “Beto” Sanchez walks into the local art shop Uprok. He needs to restock caps and spray cans for a new piece he’s working on. Today he especially needs purple. Back at his house, Sanchez has set up a painting wall made out of four big panels of wood in his backyard. It’s mostly for practice, but also to build his portfolio digitally using Instagram. The usage of time-lapse and images of his work in a do-it-yourself style creates a sense of clarity and authenticity. 

“It’s like things you draw are a reflection of what you know,” Sanchez said. His pieces have influences of Chicano culture and Central American roots. In his latest painting, he portrays the quetzal, the colorful bird that represents wealth in Aztec and Mayan culture. On the right side of the backyard, there’s a depiction of a Mayan warrior. 

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Humberto “Beto” Sanchez. Photo by Roberto Elguera.

Sanchez wants to see more culturally diverse art in Salt Lake County. But for now, there is some sacrifice that takes place. “To get into these spaces that aren’t designed for us, you have to adapt,” Sanchez said. With professions in design, there are some compromises that need to be made when working with clients. This can be frustrating, but it’s those passion projects that keep an artist’s integrity intact. 

Sanchez wants to bridge that gap and create a space where artists can be free and push more art into the city. He wants to build his brand West Temple Workshop to where he can one day give scholarships to aspiring artists and teach workshops.

For now, it’s time to bust out the black spray can and go over the quetzal. Faced now with a blank canvas in front of him, it’s time to work. After all, practice makes perfect. 

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Utah’s old Greek Town is about to start something new

Story by CASSANDRA ROSENKRANTZ

All photos courtesy of Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake.


Greeks have created a community in Salt Lake City ever since the first Greek immigrant came to the United States to work in the late 1870s, according to the history of Greek Orthodox. Industrialization created a major influx of Greek immigrants into the city. 

Wanting to keep the Greek culture alive, the community decided to build a Hellenic (Greek) church in 1905. Plans were made to raise money and, eventually, they built a church on the property at 439 S. 400 West in Salt Lake City.

An undated image of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The church, now known as Holy Trinity Cathedral, is the oldest Greek Orthodox church in the U.S. and it is home to the largest Greek parish west of Chicago, according to the church’s history.

According to church leaders, the community built a school to teach the young children to speak the ancient and modern Greek languages and also implemented a language program at the University of Utah

Holy Trinity is planning a big project that could impact the Greek community for the better. Ideas of future development for the land the church occupies in Salt Lake City’s Greek Town were discussed in the weekly church bulletin. This project would be the biggest that the Greek Orthodox community has taken on since the building of the first church. 

The bulletin reported that Woodbury Corp., a local development and real estate company, plans to fill the empty lot with offices, apartments for younger Greek generations, a hotel, retail outlets, Greek restaurants, a historic museum and a large park complete with an outdoor viewing space. With this new plan, Holy Trinity will be able to provide a lot of new facilities to the area in Salt Lake City.

In the past few decades, many generations of Greek Americans have come through the church. “This new center (development) could add so much to the vibrant Greek community we have here in Salt Lake,” said Annie Nikols, a member of the church, in an email interview. “I am so excited to have a project of this magnitude that will let the future generations share their history and be proud of who they are.”

Andrew Pippas, a board member on the church’s council, said he hopes the renovation plan will expand the core program of the church and provide space where everyone can visit to learn more about the Greek culture.

“This is a chance for the Greek community to show the city what they can do. This is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. We should take it while we have the chance,” Pippas said

The Greek Orthodox Youth Association dancing at the Greek Festival.

George Papadakis, a leader in the Greek community, said the Greek Festival has no plans of shutting down if this project gets up and running. 

According to VisitSLC, the Greek Festival is the second largest festival in Utah after the Utah State Fair. The festival is very well known to the public and many Utahns look forward to seeing historical Greek dancing as well as getting to taste the foods of Greece. 

Many comments have been made to the church regarding the Greek Festival on the community Facebook page. Festival-goers say the current lot does not provide everything the festival needs. This was one of the primary reasons that sparked the idea of a new Greek Town.

Papadakis is joyful for the possibility of an upcoming expansion. “Not many people know what being Greek means,” he said. “This church and the new center will become such a big part of who we are, and we are hoping the public can come to visit and become a part of our family.”   

The downtown development will benefit everyone — not just the Greek community. It will be open to the public and anyone can move into the apartments, eat at the restaurants or rent a space in the offices. 

“The plans for the new building look modern,” said Nikols, the church member. “It is so fun to think of it as our future where our kids and the new generation will grow up.”

Rendering of the new buildings making up Greek Town.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, construction costs are looking upwards of $300 million and the church is currently accepting donations. The Huntsman Foundation of Utah has donated to help the Greek community achieve its goal. Although the church has already started planning, the project has yet to take shape and it is still under consideration from the local government. If the plan passes, the project is expected to get underway as soon as possible and could take up to three years to complete.

Many members of the church, like Nikols, have shared their joy of the renovation plan on social media in hopes to spread the news and receive donations. The parishioners are hoping that Greek Town will become a popular neighborhood gathering area for locals in Salt Lake City where they can eat, relax and enjoy the Greek culture.

Mestizo Coffeehouse provides spaces for community projects

Story and gallery by MEG CLASPER

Sometimes the best places are hard to find. Mestizo Coffeehouse, tucked in the Citifront Apartments at 641 W. North Temple, is one such hidden gem. It offers more than just coffee and pastries. It also supports causes.

Established 12 years ago, Mestizo filled a community need for a public meeting space. Since then over 50 organizations have met at the coffeehouse. “Someone said, ‘You do so much.’ We don’t do anything, we just provide the space for it,” said owner David Galván. 

Not everything that goes on at Mestizo is based around an issue or a cause. Many activities happen just for fun. Single people from the local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold frequent comedy nights there. Clubs and groups meet at Mestizo. Many check-ins on its Facebook page come from bible study groups. Other events such as concerts and art walks are scheduled there too.

Gallery

The gallery is the largest meeting space in the coffeehouse. Two moveable wall sections allow for the room to be opened up to the main area. A small sitting area in the center of the gallery features a couch, coffee table and two large chairs. A piano and bass sit across from the couch allowing the room to be used for meetings or music. 

The walls of the gallery are home to pieces of art by local artists. Three month-long exhibits are scheduled to start in April. Each follows an overarching theme of displacement and gentrification: “March for Our Lives,” “Youth Custody,” “Tower of Stories.” They tell the story of how the west side of Salt Lake City is impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Events such as yoga, tango, musical performances, and larger gatherings are able to use the gallery. With the advantage of moveable walls, the gallery can be used along with the other spaces at Mestizo.

Secondary Space

The secondary meeting space is filled with tall tables. Bar chairs surround the tables leaving room for an additional standing crowd. A floor to ceiling window connects to the emergency exit. The window allows natural light into the space highlighting the blue, orange and red walls.

A stage area is reserved in the front left corner of the room. Two speakers are set up to allow those conducting events or meetings to be heard over the crowd. Events such as karaoke and comedy nights are held in this room, Galván said.

A doorway to Mestizo

The outside seating area is the first thing all visitors see when approaching the business. Hand-painted metal tables and chairs surround the rust-colored awning above the door. Each chair has its own color and designs that add character. The front door is framed by two windows, one of which is decaled with the poem “Mestizo” by Francisco X. Alarcon.

This space in addition to the main seating are more casual areas. Customers can sit, chat, relax, or even work in any area that isn’t reserved at the time.  

Atmosphere of Mestizo Coffeehouse

A large chalkboard calendar sits above the condiment bar. The calendar shows upcoming and weekly meetings. For example, tango happens every Sunday, an open mic night every Wednesday and a meeting of Furries (a group that enjoys animal cosplay) every Friday. This is able to show visitors to the coffeehouse what events are coming up that they might find interesting.

In the main sitting area of the coffeehouse, next to the ordering counter, is a mural depicting several people of all types in the same space. One man is playing a guitar, a woman is painting on a canvas, a few other people are conversing over a cup of coffee. The top of the mural reads MESTIZO (MIXED). In Spanish, mestizo means “mixed” in reference to cultures and families.

“A huge number of people end up here because of diversity,” Galván said.

Mestizo is known by many different groups around Salt Lake City. Students and staff at the University of Utah know the place well.

“Mestizo is an invaluable community space. They are always willing to host activity events, and they have great art and coffee too!” said Bryn Dayton, a senior at the U who works with social justice organizations on campus.

With the coffeehouse’s support and ability to provide space for them, organizations can connect and move forward. Its location is just on the border between west and east Salt Lake City, making it a convenient spot for groups from both sides to interact, work together, or enjoy a cup of coffee or a chai latte. The idea of mestizo in the surrounding community is supported by the coffeeshop. Mestizo Coffeehouse is an inspiration and invaluable space to the community of Salt Lake City.

Santo Taco: a pillar of community in crisis 

Story by PALAK JAYSWAL

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shut down our world, it may be an understatement to say its effects on particular trades will be devastating. From entertainment to athletics, industries and workers alike will not be left unscathed by this pandemic. 

On a more local level, those who are most economically vulnerable are small business owners who rely on people leaving their houses to help pay their own bills. 

One local Utah business, a taqueria called Santo Taco, located in Rose Park at 910 N. 900 West, continues to serve people via takeout orders and curbside delivery in adherence to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, combined with the added stress of recovery from the Magna-centered 5.7 earthquake that rocked Utah on March 18, 2020, the taqueria provides comfort to Utahns while sticking to the traditional values it is built on. 

The Story 

According to their website, the owners of Santo Taco, Claudia and Alfonso Santo, have been in Utah for decades, and their taqueria has been a work in progress for many years. When Claudia and Alfonso first got started in the food industry, they were washing dishes in the kitchen. Through years of learning skills from the culinary industry and working to build a life for their growing family, they slowly immersed themselves in the art of food. 

Originally opened in 2019, Santo Taco prides itself on its long journey through fresh food and traditional flavors. The journey is one of dedication, family and innovation. The trademark home-style cooking from Santo Taco is adapted in the owners’ way, catering to the vegetarian palates as two of the couple’s children are vegetarians. Modifying these recipes is a remarkable feature considering many Mexican plates are heavy on the meat. 

The menu of Santo Taco has something for everyone — from the tacos, of course, to quesadillas and burritos. There are several popular snack items available as well, such as nachos and asada fries. While the food is delicious, during times like these, it’s not just the food that brings customers to the doors of Santo Taco. 

Community and Crisis 

Rodolfo Rangel Jr., a realtor in Utah, is proud to dine at Santo Taco during COVID-19 lockdown. “We are together in this crisis. If we don’t support each other, everyone will be affected one way or another,” Rangel said in an interview over direct message. 

While Rangel is acquainted with Salt Lake City through his profession, he is aware of the value a support system of a community can provide. “I know the owners and I know how hard they worked to open this business. I just want to do my part. They are a hard-working family and I know they always help anyone in need,” Rangel said regarding the Santo family. 

Rangel is one of many who wants to do his part to support local businesses and families. Steve Kinyon, food blogger behind Foody Fellowship, also marveled at the quality of food from Santo Taco and the sense of stability it provides in these uncertain times. “It’s important to support local [businesses] right now because there are already thin margins,” Kinyon said in an interview over direct message. 

While Kinyon sang praises for Santo Taco on his Instagram account, he also had kind words for the people behind the food. “Santo Taco has amazing owners and operators for their business. They are genuinely great people, they care about the community,” Kinyon said. 

In times of true panic, there are certain things that provide comfort to individuals, like a good book, a warm blanket or your favorite takeout food. Self-isolating is now the norm for many people across the country, and Utah is no different. But what does this mean for local businesses? As the world continues to change on a daily basis, Santo Taco and its patrons remind us of why supporting local businesses — circumstances permitting — is important.