Utah's Latino History on Monday's Access Utah
Armando Solórzano, Director of Chicano Studies at the University of Utah, says that years of neglect and omission from historical records have taken their toll on the historical consciousness of Latinos in Utah. For a long time, many people, including a large percentage of the Latino community, believed that the presence of Latinos or their ancestors in the state was merely a twentieth-century phenomenon.
Missing from many histories and popular knowledge was the possibility that the ancestors of the Mexicans, also known as the Mexica, or Aztecs, inhabited what is now Utah with their relatives, the Indian Utes. Also, unknown to most was the fact that Mexican Indians contributed to the exploration of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition of 1776. Additionally, there is evidence that the Aztec Calendar may have had its origins in Utah. Solórzano says that when he was interviewing one of the oldest Mexicans of Utah, she commented, “I don’t have a history: I only have pictures.” He says that through the educational system in their native countries, many Mexicans and Latinos learn that the Southwest and Utah were once part of Mexico. This knowledge becomes an important component of their identity and they expect these facts to be recognized and reflected in the history of the state. Instead, they find a local educational system that omits, misrepresents, and in many instances, denies their historical presence. Solórzano, author of a new book from University of Utah Press, “We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe: Latinos in Utah,” says that the time has come for Mexican Americans and Latinos in Utah to reclaim their history and to regain the sense of belonging to the state.