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.”

Mindfulness and holistic wellness blossoms in Salt Lake City’s Latinx community

Story and photo by JASMINE BARLOW

Sacred Energy Empowerment Center (SEEC) and Latino Behavioral Health Services are creating dynamic, inclusive, and accessible spaces for Latinx individuals in the Salt Lake City area to explore holistic health options.

Jomar Hernandez, an accredited holistic coach from Venezuela, is leading Spanish-speaking group meditations and healing circles at SEEC. Additionally, Hernandez offers private coaching and organizes large-scale events. She says her events are amassing an impressive turnout, and she is excited for future projects.

Hernandez’s unwavering passion and commitment to holistic wellness stem from her bravery of battling an early phase of cancer, diagnosed in 2013. “I was very scared of what was going on and how it will affect my family,” Hernandez says. “I returned to my meditation practice and participated in healing circles for comfort, like I did back in Venezuela.”

Hernandez recalls an “empowering treatment experience” during her stay at the Sanoviv Holistic Institute in Mexico. A variety of holistic-based treatments were implemented, a type of medical experience unfamiliar to Western societies. “It was there I began to connect with health coaches, and I fell in love [with this path],” Hernandez says.

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When it comes to addressing individual client needs, she has a simple approach: “The biggest question I ask [my clients] is this: ‘How open are you?’ And that’s where the process of true healing begins.” In relation to her Latin American roots, she feels the overarching culture surrounding holistic healing in Latin America is an “ancient practice,” and says she is honored to bring this essence of sacredness to helping Latinx women, her target client demographic.

Her line of work is not exempt from challenges, with difficulties ranging from establishing a client network to tackling misconceptions surrounding coaching. “It has been a little bit complicated because the people really don’t know about how a coach can help,” Hernandez says. “They usually come to me if they want to lose weight. [However], when [the clients] start asking questions about their health problems and diet, they realize there is an emotional part that we need to go deeper into.”

Hernandez believes her “Before and After” photo approach is a highly-effective tool, where clients can see a physical manifestation of emotional progression and positive change in their demeanor following a session. “It brings me so much joy to see how much they are glowing and growing,” she says.

Healing takes many forms, and mental health therapy is a crucial aspect of the holistic equation. For Latinx communities, there is a dimension of unique importance. Latino Behavioral Health Services (LBHS) serves such a purpose in the heart of Salt Lake City. It is dedicated to helping vulnerable members of Utah’s Latinx community recover from mental illness and addiction.

Diana Aguilera, a Peer Programs coordinator at LBHS, describes the foundational incentive in creating the award-winning, nonprofit organization: “[LBHS] saw the need for mental health services in Spanish,” she says. “It is a peer-run organization, helping substance abuse and mental health issues for individuals and family members.” Deemed a “softer approach,” Aguilera finds that peer mentorship “makes it easier for people to open up, as if everyone in the room completely understands you.”

Aguilera says deep stigma and economic barriers are prominent factors that may discourage the local Latinx community from seeking help. “Mental health services are so unapproachable,” she says. “You are calling someone up, saying you need help. It’s hard for people to do. On top of that, it can be very expensive.”

Aguilera believes that Latinx cultures may view mental health as a “character weakness” or something that is chosen. “We have families come in, where parents feel they have failed as caretakers,” she says. Empathizing and addressing these commonly-held beliefs, LBHS offers a rich variety of mental health education and support classes to deconstruct stigma and strengthen connection with the self and others. Additionally, therapy services are offered by licensed professionals at a reduced cost to accommodate all economic levels.

Despite these challenges, Aguilera says she believes there is positive progress being made. “In the grand scheme, mental health is gradually becoming more accessible. At [LBHS], we are creating a wonderful community to heal. We don’t have the power to do it all, but we are creating a space where we are not ashamed to share our stories.”

Whether an individual’s healing journey aligns with mental health therapy, holistic health coaching, or both, Aguilera and Jomar Hernandez both emphasize the importance of spreading awareness and strengthening local outreach. These efforts cast a welcoming net to reach those who can benefit from their guidance and resources.

Marisa’s Fashion is a model for west-side Hispanic-owned businesses

Story and photos by JACOB RUEDA

Hispanic-owned businesses in Salt Lake City are becoming the staple in the local economic landscape. The rise of such businesses began in the early to mid-1980s and has become prevalent due to the influx of people migrating from other states and other countries. U.S. Census Bureau data from 2019 says Hispanics or Latinos are the largest non-white ethnic group in the city.

Despite their growing numbers in Salt Lake City, the presence of Hispanics is not as commonplace compared to places like Los Angeles or Houston. While Hispanic-owned businesses in those cities are typical in their local economies, their impact went unrecognized in Salt Lake City until recently.

Marisa’s Fashion was one of the first Hispanic-owned businesses in Salt Lake City. The store is located at 67 W. 1700 South.

“Marisa’s Fashion is one of the first Hispanic-owned stores in Salt Lake City,” says Refugio Perez, a local business owner and entrepreneur who started the clothing and general retail store 40 years ago. After arriving from California and receiving settlement money from a work-related injury, he started Perez Enterprises and created Marisa’s Fashion from it, naming the store after one of his children.

“It is the only one that is still in business out of an initial group of five stores that were established,” Perez says in Spanish.

The store located at 67 W. 1700 South has had the support of the Hispanic community from the beginning. Although at the time the Hispanic population in Salt Lake City was small, people around the Wasatch Front and other states knew of Marisa’s Fashion and came to shop there.

“We started to grow quickly because there weren’t that many places and people were limited as to where they could shop,” Perez says. “We had people from as far as Ogden, Park City and Wendover [Nevada] coming to our store so it worked out for us and we were able to grow our business.”

Refugio Perez is the founder of Perez Enterprises. He started Marisa’s Fashion in the early to mid-1980s.

Marisa’s Fashion grew as a result of demand but also from knowing the responsibilities of running a store. One of the challenges in today’s business world is lacking that knowledge. Perez says some Hispanic entrepreneurs today go in ambitiously without being aware of basic operational skills.

“Nowadays, someone starts a business and they do it without knowing the basics of how to start or run a business,” he says. Aside from the legal and financial responsibilities, staying on top of technological advancements in the digital age is essential in today’s market.

“There have been a lot of professional Hispanic businesses of late and that’s why they are important tools for success,” Perez says.

The longevity of Hispanic-owned businesses is determined by the ability to overcome obstacles. Perez says it has not always been easy staying on track, especially in times of a national crisis.

“9/11 really affected us,” Perez says. “I felt at that time that the State of Utah was the last to get hit economically because of what happened in New York.” An analysis from online small business website The Balance says the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, caused a recession at the time to worsen. Perez decided to hand over responsibility of Marisa’s Fashion to his brother as a result.

“I told him that if any of the businesses survived, I’d prefer it be his and that’s what happened,” Perez says. Since then, the business has carried on in Salt Lake City’s west side. Economic downturns and other setbacks aside, Hispanic-owned businesses like Marisa’s Fashion and Perez Enterprises continue to grow and establish themselves permanently in the area’s commercial landscape because of the economic and social influence they have.

Aaron Quarnberg, chairman of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says “understanding the Hispanic business community” is necessary “for any company looking to grow.”

In his welcome letter to the 2019 Hispanic Small Business Summit, Aaron Quarnberg, chairman of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says “understanding the Hispanic business community” is necessary “for any company looking to grow.” Statistics website Statista reports the buying power of the Hispanic community in the United States is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by the end of 2020. (That figure was calculated before the impact of COVID-19 in March 2020.)

“Latinos are contributing a lot not only with their businesses but with their taxes and it’s something that I think governments should really pay attention to,” says Moises Olivares, a Realtor and author based in Los Angeles, in a Facebook chat. He also says Salt Lake City can learn from cities like Los Angeles by expanding the perception of the Hispanic community as more than just what is propagated through stereotype.

A February 2019 study from the Peterson Institution for International Economics says “Hispanics, especially the foreign born, exhibit higher levels of entrepreneurship than other ethnic groups in the United States.” Despite these findings, Perez from Perez Enterprises says the Hispanic community in Salt Lake City still lacks recognition for its overall economic contribution. 

The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helps Hispanic-owned businesses thrive in the local economy while helping them comply with city regulations.

“People like to spend cash,” Perez says. “We know that helps business, even [non-Hispanic] businesses. If they did not have the economic support from the Hispanic community, they wouldn’t be in business.”

Regardless, Salt Lake City’s west-side Hispanic-owned businesses continue in spite of setbacks, crises or perceptions from others. Weathering the ups and downs of the market, cultural shifts, and technological changes helps businesses like Perez Enterprises and Marisa’s Fashion endure for as long as they have.

“When one is patient and is secure in the knowledge that they have to keep at it and keep going,” Perez says, “it becomes important so we can keep fighting and not give up to the last breath.”

Editor’s Note: Read more stories about local entrepreneurs, the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the impact of the Hispanic community in Utah.

 

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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Bad Dog Arts: Bringing an array of color to west Salt Lake City

Story and photos by KATHRYN A. HACKMAN

In the summer of 1996, one of the most artistic nonprofits the west side of Salt Lake City has ever seen was born. Victoria Lyons and Michael Moonbird founded Bad Dog Arts. Their purpose? To enrich the community through artistic outreach and creative exposure.

The artists have also created public art under the auspices of their sister company, Moon Lyon.

Both organizations have been leaving a vibrant trace all over the state of Utah. Perhaps you’ve seen their art along the wall of Whole Foods Market in Trolley Square? Or if you’ve ever ventured into the town of Gunnison, Utah, maybe you’ve stumbled upon their marvelous tiled mural.

While their work is statewide, there’s no doubt Lyons and Moonbird also have left their mark on west-side neighborhoods under both companies.

Moon Lyon’s vibrant mixture of warm copper, lively violet and golden yellows are guaranteed to catch the eye of anyone driving past Glendale Library on Concord Street. Visitors are welcomed by a rainbow-like tile mural that takes up a good portion of the library’s south-facing wall.

While the library was still in its developmental phases, a request for proposal, known as an RFP, was sent out to the community. The Glendale neighborhood needed a commission that was representative of the local population as a whole. Moonbird and Lyons knew they were the team for the job.

Their design kept Glendale’s very diverse community in mind.

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Moon Lyon’s tile mural at the Glendale Library, 1375 S. Concord St.

The inspiration that fueled their commission was folk art from around the world. They wanted their piece to tell the cultural story that is unique to the locals on the west side. Moon Lyon’s final installation does just that.

At first glance, the color palette seems to reference Utah’s southwest landscape. However, under closer inspection, the mural’s meaning reaches far beyond the state’s borders and incorporates a worldwide scene.

In the upper left corner, an amber sun shines. The artistic details call to western Native American tribes. Toward the center swims a teal sea turtle, highlighting the many Pacific Islanders represented in the neighborhood. The multicolored sugar skull on the far right is a nod to the Latino community.

From one side to the other, tile by tile, viewers are taken on a trip around the world.

This global harmony didn’t happen overnight. Moonbird did much cultural investigation to ensure both accuracy and inclusion. Between the research, design process, and installation of the ceramic pieces, this mural was in the making for well over a year.

Bad Dog Arts: collaboration and creativity

Most murals that you see around town are likely painted. However, Moonbird and Lyons prefer to create tile masterpieces. They do this in collaboration with children in the community through their company Bad Dog Arts.

What is Bad Dog Art’s mission? To offer an exposure to the arts for children who may not otherwise receive it. Moonbird and Lyons particularly reach out to children from all across the west side who attend elementary schools like Northwestern and Bachman.

Bad Dog Art’s artistic process is an exciting one. After a design is finalized, a ceramic glaze is applied to a porcelain tile. Rather than use traditional paint brushes, wooden skewers are used to manipulate the liquid glass. This ensures no brush strokes are visible. Once complete, the tile is fired in the artists’ studio kiln and prepared for installation.

From start to finish, Moonbird and Lyons — along with their young Glendale artists — do it all.

“We take a different approach to murals because tile installations are far more long-lasting. But they are quite a bit more time-consuming,” Lyons said.

Visitors to the University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) Hartland Partnership Center are welcomed by one of Bad Dog Arts’ signature tile murals. This piece is proof of what it does best, bringing art directly to the neighborhood, creating an experience for all to be a part of.

This project is quilt-like in its appearance. It’s made up of several 12-by-12 tiles, each one depicting a different UNP partner.

“We’ve developed a number of ways in which we work art into the community,” Moonbird said.

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Bad Dog Art’s tile mural at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center, 1578 W. 1700 South.

Bad Dog Arts met with each partner represented on the piece. The artists held workshops and focus groups to gather each organization’s ideas. Although this was a time-consuming process, it ensured that the partners were being involved within the creation.

The focal point of the piece is the tree in the center. It’s meant to represent the unity and strength created through the collaboration of the Glendale community and the various UNP partners.

“We work with the community in a very multilayered and interactive way,” Lyons said.

However, it’s the company’s inclusion of the children at the Hartland Afterschool Youth Program that really demonstrates Bad Dog Art’s desire to make art accessible to those who would benefit the most: Salt Lake City’s west-side kids.

Lyons and Moonbird realize that traveling to their studio for an art class may not be a reality for some kids living in the Glendale ZIP code. So, they bring art directly to the children.

In the UNP mural, the multicolored border was designed and created by the Hartland youth. Through this creative process, the children were taught about design, color, and radial symmetry.

It all began with the little ones, artists in the making. They used oil pastels to create the outline. These designs were then brought to workshops with the older kids, where they were introduced to the glazing technique.

According to Lyons, the most essential part of this entire process is “imparting to the kids an ‘I can do it’ attitude.”

Lyons and Moonbird create an experience that demonstrates how art transcends its creative borders and into other academic areas. Bad Dog Arts connects subjects like math, science, and geography to provide a source of visual learning for the students.

“If they complete an art project and feel happy with it, that sense of accomplishment carries over into all other areas of learning,” Lyons said.

Bad Dog Arts also hosts workshops at the Glendale-Mountain View Community Learning Center (CLC), the heart of the west side.

“I was instantly impressed with Bad Dog. Sometimes you partner with arts organizations, and they create cute elementary projects. But that’s not the case with Bad Dog Arts. The things they do are incredible,” said Keri Taddie, the program director of the CLC. “They don’t do anything that’s not quality work.”

Bad Dog Arts is always looking for people who want to contribute to the organization’s artistic impact. You don’t have to be an artist to be a part of it. People from various backgrounds can lend a helping hand. And for those college students wanting to gain professional experience, look for summer internship opportunities.

Ballet Folklórico de las Américas: a home away from home

Details on a costume used by the group.

Story and photos by PALAK JAYSWAL

On the edge of downtown Salt Lake City, just behind the Gateway Mall, resides a small building in a fenced-off area. During the day, the white brick shines, the title on top proudly giving it an identity. The Centro Civico Mexicano, on 155 S. 600 West, is a nonprofit organization that is home to many different local groups. 

Late on a weekday night, you’re bound to run into a youth soccer group in the middle of practice. On the opposite side of the gym, behind a polyester red curtain, lives a stage. It is set for the dancers from Ballet Folklórico de las Américas. The oldest Latin American folk dancing group in Utah practices in the building twice a week, undeterred by conditions such as freezing cold temperatures in the winter. Each member arrives with a smile and a welcoming hug to all the members (and guests alike). They’re ready to immerse themselves in cultural dance for the next two hours. The silent message from the group is clear: everyone is welcome here. 

Ballet Folklórico de las Américas celebrated its 40th anniversary in November 2019. The group, originally formed in 1979, has continued to uphold its original mission “to unite the community under one heart as we communicate with the universal language of music and dance to show that Latinos are an important group contributing in our mainstream society with traditions and celebrations that bring enrichment to families and communities together as we celebrate diversity.” 

Legacy and Roots 

Members of Ballet Folklórico de las Américas.

The group celebrates diversity within Latin American countries as well as within a community of Latinos in Utah. Giselle Cornejo, a past dancer and continued supporter of the organization, identifies as Afro-Latina. She has been with the group since it originated when she was 15 years old. Her mother is one of the original founders and Cornejo’s experience and legacy with the group has helped her find her own identity. “When you’re learning a dance from Latin America, you learn why you do things a certain way. You learn what the movement means. It’s deeper than just a dance. It’s a projection of a culture,” Cornejo said. 

It is a culture that Cornejo has passed along to her own two daughters, now older, who also joined the group. The folk dance group not only becomes a second home for many immigrants, helping them adjust to their new lives and retain their identities, but also helps them stay in touch with their culture. In fact, Cornejo encourages involvement for this very reason. “If you have Latin American roots, I would say this would be a good place to bring your kids. It’s a fun group and it keeps families together. I think it helps [kids] identify who they are,” she said. 

Hats used in one of the dances.

While Cornejo is a generational legacy within the group, even the newer participants share the same sentiment. Miztly Montero, another dancer, has only been dancing for three months and she can already attest to the difference she feels in her life. “It’s an extended family, in a way, and it’s part of the culture you don’t get in any other scenarios where other people dominate the sectors,” Montero said.

As a first-generation child of an immigrant, Montero felt increased pressure to prove herself to her family and to the world. “You feel like people are looking down on you,” she said. “Part of that led me to work harder in school, at work, but it also led me to miss part of my culture and not embrace it as much.” The part of her culture that Montero missed out on is rediscovered through folk dancing — where she gets to learn about her heritage through songs, dance moves and community. 

Montero urges everyone to support groups like Ballet Folklórico de las Américas through attendance and inclusion. “It’s cool to embrace the value groups like this bring. Not just to the Hispanic population, but to other cultures and how we can come together and embrace those differences.” 

Resiliency, Teamwork and Patience 

Those differences are exactly what led Artistic Director Irma Hofer to her discovery of the dance group over 36 years ago. Hofer found herself drawn in by the different cultures of Latin America, not just the sole focus on her own Mexican heritage. “Latin American folk dancing has more variety and more stories. I learned history, traditions, celebrations and customs through that. The idiosyncrasies of Latin Americans,” Hofer said.  Through learning dances like the merengue, salsa, mamba and others she continues to grow. 

Boots and Decorations used during the dances.

Through her leadership, Hofer strives to make the group a place where her dancers can not only embrace their identities, but also learn to be better people. “We learn a lot of our personal and human values in this group,” Hofer said. “We learn resiliency, teamwork and patience.” 

All three of these traits are being put to work as the folk dance group, among various others who use the civic center, raise funds for a new building. With so many different groups using one center, there is simply not enough room for everyone. More often than not, Ballet Folklórico de las Américas has its practices canceled because other groups can’t get their work done with music playing. 

“The Mexican Civic Center is in much need of funding because we need a new building. We need dance classrooms, art classrooms, conference rooms where people can meet and not be canceled,” Hofer said. “This is the space we have. This is it.” 

The Mexican flag at the Civic Center.

Despite the circumstances, the dancers and members of Ballet Folkórico de las Américas continue to dance away, committed to making the most of what they have with a group that has offered so many of them a home away from home. The energizing music of the mambo, the dance the group is practicing, fills the cold building. Costumes are brought out for the dancers’ performance that weekend and a Mexican flag proudly waves next to the stage at the Centro Civico Mexicano, welcoming anyone who is looking for a place to belong.

 

 

 

 

 

Arts education empowers Salt Lake City

Story by PALAK JAYSWAL

Salt Lake City is home to a growing art scene. Whether it be intricate murals that color the sides of buildings or exhibitions and galleries, there is something for all art lovers. 

Many of the artists on the west side of Salt Lake City use their art as activism, teaching people about their culture through their work and educational experiences. Activists and artists find their path in several different ways, but increasingly on the west side, education seems to direct them.

Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, the director of University Neighborhood Partners (UNP), a program dedicated to bringing greater civic engagement to the west side, has seen the impact of art education. Working with organizations like the Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts (MICA), Mayer-Glenn said, “Art is a way to connect with the community.”

One example of such impact is featured in the 2020 issue of “Community Voices,” the UNP magazine. A group of 10 youth artists participated in an art residency where they collaborated on the creative process. The result is a mural located at Sugar Space Arts Warehouse that explores the theme of cultural identity. One of the lead artists on the project, Ruby Chacón, holds an art legacy here in Utah — and she has experience with using her artistic voice for activism. 

Art as Activism

Chacón graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in fine arts. She credits her education as a catalyst to create art. “The experience of growing up in Utah as a person of color was kind of what informed my work,” Chacón said in a phone interview.

Yet she never imagined she’d become a teacher. After a negative experience with a guidance counselor in high school, who repeatedly told Chacón she would never graduate, the last thing on the artist’s mind was to become an educator.

Ruby Chacón posing next to one of her murals. Photo courtesy of Ruby Chacón.

It wasn’t until Chacón had her own son and had to think about what kind of educational experience she wanted for him that she understood she was in a position of great power. “I realized I need[ed] to go back and change from the ground up what needs to be changed in schools,” Chacón said. “I wanted to be the teacher that some kids might not have.” 

More than that, she wanted to execute in her teaching and art what she didn’t receive as a child: representation and a listening ear. “My whole experience of living in Utah and going through the school system and not seeing myself in books we read, images we saw — they did not represent me,” Chacón said. “For the longest time, I thought we were immigrants because that’s what everyone told us.”

Chacón wants to take control of her cultural narrative and show young kids they are allowed to dream and create art. When the dominant narrative is one that doesn’t include someone who looks like you, it has a lasting impact. Paying it forward is the next step to addressing this issue. 

Chacón’s TRAX Mural. Located at the Jackson\Euclid TRAX station, 850 W. North Temple. Photo courtesy of Ruby Chacón.

“It’s really important that they can see themselves reflected in a positive, dignified way to counter those narratives that are very poisoning to their identities,” Chacón said. She now teaches middle and high school art in a different state. As the co-founder of MICA, she still speaks fondly of the mission and organization: “It brings an insider’s perspective to share their voice through their art. It purposefully resides on the west side.” 

Education Empowers Artists 

Miguel Galaz, another west-side artist, didn’t realize he could pursue art as a career until he reached higher education and took an oil painting class at Salt Lake Community College. Eventually, he discovered the power of art and activism during a backpacking trip through Mexico and Central America, which helped his art career take off. 

“I was exposed to a lot of different cultures that were just fascinating,” Galaz said in a phone interview. “We went to a lot of Mayan ruins, we were just drenched with different colors, textures, food and music throughout the whole trip.”

This cultural deep dive is what led Galaz to understand what he wanted to present with his art. “I was born in Mexico, but raised over here (Utah). I sort of felt like an identity struggle of not belonging. So going on this trip made me feel connected with my identity and the richness of my culture,” he said.

In 2015, when a friend asked him to do a piece for a restaurant located in West Jordan, Utah, he wasn’t expecting controversy to occur. The experience shook Galaz to the core, but it was another pivotal moment.

Miguel Galaz’s mural in West Jordan. Photo courtesy of Miguel Galaz.

“It made me realize the power of art,” Galaz said. “How applying paint to a wall in a certain way to really impact people can move them.” This idea led to the creation of Roots Art Kollective. “We wanted to do something for our communities,” he said. “To inspire people to want to learn more.” 

Chacón and Galaz are just two of many examples of artists who believe in the power of  art education for students. On the west side, this education can lead to community, creation and connectivity. As Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, the director of University Neighborhood Partners put it, “Art is a way to express repression and oppression.” 

 

Latinas discuss the mixed messages of cultural beauty standards

Story and photos by BRITT BROOKS

For some Latinx American women, the beauty industry has been a beacon of inspiration, color and expression. But for others the cultural standards of beauty can be exclusive — even discriminatory  — and spur insecurities.

Jasmyne Magaña

Jasmyne Magaña is a 20-year-old student at the University of Utah studying political science. Magaña’s mom is white and her dad is Mexican. Though she’s loved by both sides, she said she struggled to find an identity that wasn’t “too white,” in the eyes of her traditional Hispanic family.

Comments about her lack of jewelry or American accent when speaking Spanish discouraged her from feeling connected to the Hispanic culture, or like she belonged in it at all. “I’ve had to teach myself about it,” she said.

Though she’s fluctuated between feeling like she belongs in the Latinx sphere or not, Magaña has witnessed the inflexibility of Latin American beauty standards personally. She recalled being asked multiple times by her Hispanic family if she was a lesbian because when she was younger she didn’t like makeup and preferred to wear her hair up. “It’s influenced me more than I like to admit,” she said.

Classic gender roles play a big part in the overall culture of Latin America. They affect Latinx women by more or less putting them in a box, laying out guidelines for what men want. For example, the perpetual stereotype of the “Spicy Latina” bothers Magaña as it does so many other Latinxs. Women should not be fetishized for showing emotion or speaking their minds.

How culture influences beauty standards

Like Magaña, Kiara Grajeda-Dina, 19, has felt pressured by various beauty ideals for as long as she can remember. She identifies as Afro-Latinx and has Mexican, African, and Aztec lineage. Grajeda-Dina has lived in Utah her whole life but said she’s been surrounded by her Mexican family and friends, and immersed in local Hispanic culture, including panaderías and salons.

Grajeda-Dina said she’s fortunate to have a mom who taught her and her sisters to embrace all body types and skin tones as beautiful. Because she and her sisters are part black, their skin gets quite dark in the summer, something Grajeda-Dina said a lot of Latinxs avoid. However, their mom encouraged them to do whatever they wanted, like playing in the sun.

But the same can’t be said for the popular mentality in Latin America, which celebrates a very precise definition of beauty that all but excludes those with darker skin. In a lot of ways South American countries that have European influence, like Argentina and Colombia, tend to look down on neighboring countries that have large populations of indigenous people and people with darker skin, Grajeda-Dina said.

The beauty culture in Latin America focuses on having a specific blend of Hispanic and European features including lightly tanned skin, long styled hair, an hourglass figure, large light eyes and plump lips. Grajeda-Dina said these features are exceptionally popular in the aforementioned South American countries as well as Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.

Kiara Grajeda-Dina

The unrealistic balance that popular beauty demands just isn’t possible for a lot of Hispanics. Grajeda-Dina mentioned that the majority of Latina women have medium-to-dark skin tones, are short, curvy, and express themselves in many more ways than the oversexualized image of what they “should” look like, according to both Latin and American media.

As reported by Reuters, the global beauty industry is expected to reach a market value of $805.61 billion within the next five years, so it’s no wonder that women all around the world are surrounded by ads for makeup, hair, skincare and diet products every day.

The erasure of certain features like large noses, natural hair and dark skin combined with the underrepresentation of different body types in the media leads to a society that isn’t exposed to the different ways to be beautiful.

Even Latina role models like Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Shakira often change their looks to be more marketable or desirable to an American and European audience. “It’s kind of hard to follow beauty standards of [Latinx] women who are still trying to follow American beauty with the pale skin and the long blond hair. It’s closer but it just isn’t it,” Grajeda-Dina said.

Grajeda-Dina remembered that as a young girl she had to actively search for characters that reflected similar features, skin tone, and culture as her own. She said that Disney’s “Coco” as well as “The Princess and the Frog” and “Moana” are examples of films that portray people of color in protagonist roles and also show their respective cultures accurately.

Grajeda-Dina said she’s happy her 3-year-old sister has opportunities to watch more people who look like her. “It’s super comforting because growing up I constantly had to go looking for stuff like that,” she said, “You would just have to wait for something to come out that was closer to something you could relate to.”

Discrimination within the beauty industry

The inner workings of the beauty industry aren’t perfect. Latinx people in all professions are sometimes the only person of color or the only Latinx at their job.

Grace Cordero, 20, has experienced this tokenization and how racial stereotypes and misconceptions can exist anywhere. Cordero is Puerto Rican on her dad’s side but said her father never knew much Spanish and didn’t focus on passing down the language.  She said her lack of Spanish didn’t really affect her until salon coworkers started treating her differently.

Like many hair stylists fresh out of school Cordero quickly started working at a salon to gain experience. The salon was close to her home in Bountiful, a suburb of Salt Lake City that is reportedly 88 percent white and mostly middle-to-upper class. As a result of the town’s demographics, the vast majority of clients and stylists at her job were white and only spoke English.

Working at that salon had its ups and downs, but Cordero started noticing a pattern. She said she realized that because she’s Latina her coworkers were giving her a disproportionate number of Hispanic walk-in clients. Cordero wasn’t upset about helping Latinx clients, but the fact that she was cutting their hair solely because she is Latina put her in an uncomfortable position.

Grace Cordero at the salon Forget Me Knot.

“Just because they’re Latin doesn’t mean they should have to only go to Latin people,” Cordero said about the walk in clients whom she ultimately couldn’t help any more than her white coworkers. After multiple incidents in a row she said she came close to filing a report.

The anxiety that can accompany a language barrier was only strengthened when the clients also expected her to speak Spanish. Cordero was the butt of jokes about Latinas who can’t speak Spanish — something both she and Magaña said can be frowned upon by a lot of people in Latinx communities and families.

Cordero’s coworkers didn’t seem to understand that her role as the salon’s Spanish-speaking stylist didn’t fit reality. “They think you’ll be able to figure it out,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you know I’m Puerto Rican, you shouldn’t be treating people different.”

Beauty and appearance can be sensitive topics because they’re often extremely personal. Cordero said the salon not only disregarded her as an individual but the Spanish-speaking clients as well. “Communicating a haircut just isn’t the same,” she said. “There isn’t much room for error.”

Now Cordero is working at a different salon called Forget Me Knot, one that respects her as a stylist and doesn’t treat her like their token Latina.

Cordero, Magaña and Grajeda-Dina have experienced the competing messages of Latinx and American beauty culture and overcome discrimination and insecurity. In their own ways, each woman said what isn’t Latina enough for some is too Latina for others. They’re adamant that Latinx women can create their own definition of beauty.

 

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Am I Latinx? Or am I Black? What if I’m both?

Story and photos by SHAUN AJAY

The intersection between Latino and Black runs deep in racial and self-perceptions among those who identify as Afro-Latinx. The term Afro-Latinx encompasses those from Mexico, Central and Latin America of majority African descent. The choice rests on the individual and what they choose to identify with. Since Latino is not a race or ethnicity, the term Afro-Latinx is an umbrella for those who identify primarily with their African roots and their ethnicity such as Afro-Dominican or Afro-Cubano. This article tells the experience of three Afro-Latinas in Utah.

Portia Saulabiu

Portia Saulabiu is a retention coordinator and advisor at the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) at the University of Utah. She was born and raised in different neighborhoods in Chicago, where her parents had met. Saulabiu’s mother is African-American and her father is a Taíno from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Saulabiu said she felt a great desire to connect with her father’s side of the family, but growing up in different areas had impeded her.

Saulabiu was raised with her mother and so mainly involved herself with Black culture. It wasn’t until college, when she started to embrace her Latinx culture more. But Saulabiu’s connection to the culture, either through blood or an inborn interest, had begun at a young age. She began speaking Spanish at the age of 8, learning the language formally from middle school through college.

As a college student, she traveled to Cuba for a learning-abroad program, where she worked with a church in rebuilding homes, and conducted research on interracialism. This was her first experience in Latin America and Saulabiu said she began to grow more comfortable with her identity. But coming into contact with a different culture can sometimes mean hardships and miscommunication.

Colorism, she said, played a huge part in her identity as an Afro-Latina. She said there was no greater understanding of the concept of colorism in Latinx homes. Colorism is the prejudice or discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones within the same ethnic or racial group. Saulabiu was often treated differently because of her darker skin. “The color of your skin, your lineage of indigeneity, it all affects how you’re viewed as a Latinx,” she said.  

Her heritage and ancestry is something that Saulabiu couldn’t be taught by her parents. At first, she explained that it was weird having to learn more about her background. “It’s because you’re so socialized to identify yourself as just being Black. But to be Black means so many different things,” she said.

Saulabiu wants more people to be introspective of their racial and cultural identity. Saulabiu said that being Afro-Latinx is not about being Black or being Latinx, it means being Afro-Latinx as its own autonomous identity. “There is value in finding about all parts of yourself,” she said.

Tierra Yancey

Tierra Yancey is a junior anthropology student at the University of Utah. She comes from a military family, so a majority of her childhood involved moving across the country and around the globe. She and her family have been living in Utah for the past 10 years.

Yancey spent most of her time with her mother’s side of the family. Her maternal grandmother is Puerto Rican and her maternal grandfather is African American. Since her mother’s family is also mixed, Yancey did not grow up feeling too different. But on her paternal side, she was often confused with being half white, because of her hair texture or the way she talked.

In her formative teenage years, Yancey mainly identified as being Black. “That’s how I was seen to others, but I knew I was a bit different.” In high school, Yancey said it was hard for her to identify as being Latina, as she does not speak Spanish. “I was never Latina enough,” she said, “but Black people consider you Black enough.” The Black community, she acknowledged, is more accepting of Afro-Latinx than Black people with white ancestry.   

Among her nine siblings, Yancey is the only one with her particular hair texture, which she describes as a more loose, mixed-look style than typical Black hair. “Hair texture is really important in Black culture,” she said. “It can signify what kind of mixes you have.” In her family, Yancey is considered to be lighter skinned, and has “good” hair — traits that make her stand out more among other Afro-Latinx who have coarser hair and darker skin.

Yancey said hair also plays into the concept of colorism. Her grandmother, who is light-skinned, always used to tell her, “Oh! Mija, put sunscreen on. You don’t need to ruin your skin.” Yancey said she felt pressured to highlight those particular standards of beauty as an Afro-Latina. She was told to wash her hair properly, or not spend too much time out in the sun, while her siblings were never told anything.

Yancey continues to explore her identity as an Afro-Latina. She wants to push herself to dive into both cultures by defying the boundaries of racial categories. “It’s like having a plate of tacos, and bowl of baked mac n’ cheese — it’s different, but it’s good.”

Kiara Maylee Grajeda-Dina

Kiara Maylee Grajeda-Dina is an Afro-Latina from Salt Lake City, a business major and aspiring fashion entrepreneur. Both her parents are from Mexico; her mother from Guerrero and her father from Guadalajara. Her upbringing was cultural Hispanic. She goes to Catholic Church and speaks Spanish as her first language.

Grajeda-Dina’s mother has primarily West African ancestry dating back to the 1780s, when enslaved people were brought to the Americas through trade. Afro-Latina is a newer term for Grajeda-Dina and her mother. Before, she said her mother used to just consider herself as Hispanic, but now embraces the new term. Grajeda-Dina pointed out that West African or Black culture is very evident within the area of Mexico where her mother grew up. She said that it was incorporated into the rest of Mexican culture along with indigenous Acapulco and Hispanic traditions.

Grajeda-Dina gave an example of a dance called danza de los diablos (dance of the devils), which originated from slaves who were taken to the state of Oaxaca in 1442 to work in the plantations. The dance features indigenous masks with horse hair and colorful clothing that Grajeda-Dina said is heavily inspired by African culture. She also said that the dance is a special way of protecting the Afro-Mexican legacy from cultural assimilation.

Although colors are celebrated in tradition and clothing, darker skin is disdained. Grajeda-Dina said that she struggles with her skin color as an Afro-Latina. She said she doesn’t feel Black enough, or brown enough in both communities in the U.S. “Being a colored person, your skin speaks volumes before you even open your mouth,” she said. Grajeda-Dina’s family considers her skin as “piel que mada” or charred skin. She compared this to an onion, like layers of skin that you want to peel off. “It’s hard when your culture only embraces parts of you. We’re pitting ourselves against each other.”

With celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o identifying as Afro-Latinx, Grajeda-Dina has found confidence in her identity. Grajeda-Dina said she hopes that more Latinxs start to acknowledge the power of identifying with their roots as an Afro-Latinx. “Knowledge is power,” she said. “Look into what makes up who you are. It’s part of what makes you you.”

 

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Latinx business owners bringing value to Utah

Story and photos by KAELI WILTBANK

Hector Uribe stepped out from behind the restaurant kitchen, dressed in a white apron and a University of Utah cap. He sat down on a stool inside the lobby of the restaurant his father-in-law passed on to him in 2011 and began explaining his journey toward becoming a business owner.

Uribe explained that he grew up in Mexico and learned the value of hard work from a young age. He explained, “I ditched school when I was in sixth grade, so I was 11 years old when I went to work for somebody else to make money to help out the family.”

Uribe came to the United States from Mexico when he was just 17 years old and started working at his father-in-law’s restaurant weeks after his arrival in 1992. His plan was to save enough money to open up a hardware store back in Mexico. But, he said business owners in Mexico face great dangers because they are at risk of being robbed by the cartel. Uribe realized greater success was awaiting him as a business owner in Salt Lake City.

Hector’s, the chosen name of the company after Uribe took it over, has become a popular Mexican food destination for locals, with both the man and his food becoming iconic elements of the community.

A group of students from Highland High School recently came and interviewed Uribe about his journey as a business owner, he said. They were looking to speak with a successful person in the community, but Uribe explained, “I don’t see myself that way, I just think I am hard working.”

Salt Lake City was recently ranked as one of the best metropolitan areas for minority entrepreneurs to start a business. With the Latinx population becoming the second most rapidly growing demographic of the state of Utah, there has been a corresponding influx of Latinx-owned businesses. 

According to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, 10,000 businesses in the state of Utah are Latinx-owned and operated. 

Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a former Utah State House representative, is a third-generation American, with her grandfather immigrating to the United States from Mexico. While immigrants like Uribe are seen as successful business owners, Chavez-Houck is familiar with the negative connotations associated with immigrants. She said, “There is this notion of the deficit within communities of color, instead of looking at where our strengths are. Yes, notably persons of color are more within the criminal justice system. We have challenges with poverty and a variety of different things, but that’s not all who we are.” She added, “We are a much more complex community than that.”

Nera Economic Consulting found that nationally, “Latinos are responsible for 29 percent of the growth in real income since 2005.” With successful Hispanic-owned businesses dotting the Utah map, the positive impact brought by the Latinx community is significant to the local economy. The study continued, “They account for roughly 10 cents of every dollar of US national income, and that proportion is rising both due to growth in the Latino population and rising per capita earnings.” 

Uribe spoke with gratitude as he described the opportunity he has had to operate a business of his own. “When we come over here we are happy to have a job. I don’t say it’s a necessity for Hispanics to own their own business, but if there’s an opportunity you need to take it. It’s not as easy to start a business there (in Mexico).”

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained to a group of students at the University of Utah, “The Hispanic business community, in the majority of cases, open businesses not because they want to be an entrepreneur, but because they have to provide for their families, so they become business owners with no intention of becoming business owners. But,” he said, “as business owners, they need to learn how to run a business. They need to learn how to file taxes, they need to know how to hire, how to do invoicing, how to deal with customers, how to marketing and sales, human resources, legal issues, etc.”

Offering resources and a supportive community, the UHCC provides local Latinx business owners and entrepreneurs with valuable tools they need to succeed. Guzman explained, “We created a program called The Business Academy. Every 10 weeks we start a new program where we train the Hispanic community on how to do business in the U.S.” 

The rapidly growing Latinx community in Utah has made an impact on the local economy and culture of the state. Resources offered by the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have become valuable tools for business owners and entrepreneurs like Uribe. His words of wisdom to other entrepreneurial-minded people in the community was, “You’ve got to do everything you can and do it the best you can so you don’t ever feel like you left something behind. The world is full of opportunities and you just need to feel which one you want to take.”

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