How Utah celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Brianna Villaalta dances a number from Jalisco, Mexico. She is wearing a traditional dress known as the “China Poblana,” with the men wearing traditional charro outfits. (Photo courtesy of Brianna Villaalta)

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Utah is hosting events and festivities to honor the influence, culture and history of Latin American countries.

Hispanic Heritage Month bridges September and October because many Latin American countries won their independence during this time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rut Beltran is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. She said she and her family look forward to celebrating Mexican Independence Day each year.

“We make traditional food from Mexico,” she said. “We invite our family and friends, we sing, we dance … you know, in my culture, a party is not a party without music.”

Beltran said she loves watching her two children participate in these traditions.

“I love to see my children learning and enjoying the beauty of our culture,” she said. “I do it (celebrate) for my children to never forget where they’re coming from, their roots, and their history of my husband and me.”

Beltran is not the only one who feels this way. Camila Hino is a Bolivian student at the BYU English Learning Center, but her family currently lives in Chile. She has strong ties with Chile, so she celebrates for both Chile and Bolivia.

“I am not in my country; I was celebrating with my friends,” Hino said. “I did everything. I make empanadas, I make Chilean food, we listen to music from Chile. I was really, really happy.”

According to Hino, it is not always easy to make Bolivian food because some of the ingredients are hard to find in the U.S., however, she does what she can to celebrate.

“I dance, talk with my friends, share food, traditions, play games, it’s very awesome,” Hino said.

Brianna Villaalta, a BYU psychology student from Utah, shared her passion for her Bolivian culture at Provo’s annual Festival Latinoamericano.

“This month I performed Bolivian and Mexican dances,” she said. “I had the special experience to have a little girl run up to me to say she loved my dancing and wanted the same Mexican dress I had.”

In her view, dancing not only impacts her but also the people around her.

“It helped me realize I’m not just performing; I’m representing a culture, which is scary and special at the same time. It helps kids like her plant a seed of love and curiosity for their own culture,” she said.

Although some festivities and events have passed, there are still many through through mid-October. Here are a few coming up:

Hispanic Festival in Ogden, Sept. 30 from 2-8 p.m.

This festival will be filled with art, activities and performances from the cumbia band Vilma Diaz y La Sonora at the Ogden Amphitheater.

Hispanic Farmers Market “El Mercadito”, Oct. 2 and 3

A farmers market will be held at Weber State University’s Shepherd Union Building from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be live music and authentic handcrafted products from many Latin American countries.

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