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Changing Latino demographic in Utah highlighted in new book by University of Utah professor

A new book by University of Utah professor Armando Solorzano provides a roadmap of Latino history in Utah.

Jan.20, 2015 —A new book by University of Utah professor Armando Solórzano is providing a roadmap of Latino history in Utah—a narrative that might soon make its way into more classrooms and could one day become part of state curriculum in Utah public schools.

The book, “We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe: Recuerdo, Celebracion y Esperanza: Latinos in Utah,”was designed with support the Office of Equity and Diversity and the Office of Academic Affairs, which contributed to production costs to make the book affordable for schools and other places in the community that might not have easy access to a higher education institution.

The book covers several aspects of a changing Latino demographic in Utah, including a rich cultural history. It examines anthropological evidence that the Aztecs, the ancestor of the Mexican-Americans, were part of the Uto-Aztec groups that inhabit the territory of Utah 5,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans. It moves on to chronicle the era of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition and the multiple challenges the Mormon pioneers faced when they entered Mexican territory, said Solórzano, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies and the Ethnic Studies Program.

The history includes the story of the development of the first Hispanic communities in Utah near Monticello, and progressed as Latinos found jobs as miners, railroad workers, and Mexican migrant workers. An important contribution of Latinos to the history of Utah and to the history of the nation, was participation in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Solórzano noted. More recent chapters of Latino history in Utah, including the state’s Chicano civil rights movement, are also depicted.

“The whole idea of the book is to debunk the misinterpretation that the history of Latinos in Utah is a twenty century history,” Solórzano said. “The book also offers a very comprehensive collection of photos and visual materials that help the reader to situate him/herself in specific periods of time. The book was designed for a larger audience by including a bilingual edition, by providing a chronology and a bibliography that invites the reader to go deeper in their understanding of Latinos in Utah, and by providing a history of how the research of Latinos have been influenced by different methodologies, political interests, and religious motivations.”

Solórzano said University of Utah administration contributed to publication costs in order to extend the outcomes of the research to communities, and to provide information that increases a better understanding and acceptance of the different ethnic groups in the state.

“Fascinating, beautiful, accessible, and moving, this book offers essential reading for any Utahn,” said Kathryn Bond Stockton, a distinguished professor of English and associate vice president for equity and diversity at the University of Utah. “What a vibrant part of the history of our peoples can be found in these pages. Indeed, in this gorgeously illustrated volume, families, mining, railroads, civil rights, and religion all come together to tell gripping stories we need to encounter, teach, and remember. The Office of Equity and Diversity, with such pleasure, supports this vital project.”

As part of that effort, Latino representatives and community leaders are currently preparing a petition to the Utah State Office of Education to make the book part of state curriculum in public schools.

“In previous research we found that one of the causes for the high drop rates of Latinos from High School is their identity. This identity is shaped by the lack of information and by educational institutions that don’t have a history of representation of minorities in their curriculum,” said Solórzano.

Solórzano’s latest publication follows on earlier work related to the Dignity March that took place in March 2006 in Salt Lake City. At the Dignity March, more than 43,000 Latinos marched from the City Hall to the Capitol to demand a more comprehensive immigration reform. The new book attempts to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the march and to document the history of immigration in the state of Utah, he said.

For more information about Solórzano’s book, click here.