Ogden Latinos in the spotlight, hosting Día de los Muertos events, festival – Standard-Examiner

Ogden Latinos in the spotlight, hosting Día de los Muertos events, festival – Standard-Examiner

OGDEN — If those in the Latino community don’t cultivate a sense of pride in their heritage, Eulogio Alejandre worries their roots will wither.
“We know that happens,” said Alejandre, who heads Latinos United Promoting Education and Civic Engagement, or LUPEC, a nonprofit Weber County group focused on empowering the Latino community through education. Affinity for the food and music of Mexico and the rest of Latin America among Latinos “dies if they don’t feel it’s valued,” he added.
Mindful of that, LUPEC held the first Ogden Hispanic Festival in 2017 in connection with National Hispanic Heritage Month, which goes from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 each year, and the event returns this coming Saturday to Union Station. It goes from 2-8 p.m. and will feature music and dancing from around Latin American, Mexican food and more.
“Honestly, the main purpose is to provide a vehicle for our community, the Latino community — especially kids and young adults — to feel pride for who they are,” Alejandre said.
Some Latino kids are embarrassed about their Latino roots or hold it at arm’s length and that’s an attitude he fights. “They shouldn’t be embarrassed speaking Spanish. They should be proud,” said Alejandre, principal of Esperanza Elementary, a charter school in West Valley City he helped found that offers students a bilingual and bicultural education.
He’s not alone in his sentiments and the Hispanic Festival isn’t the only event geared to showcasing and nurturing the Mexican and Latino culture of the area. Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music, or OFOAM, held a Día de los Muertos event last Saturday at Ben Lomond High School. A second Día de los Muertos event is scheduled for Oct. 29, also at Union Station, organized by Nurture the Creative Mind, an Ogden nonprofit group that works to empower youth.
“I want the Latino community to feel at home in the city of Ogden,” said Lane Montoya, who’s helping organizing the Oct. 29 event, which will go from 1-9 p.m.
That is, he aims to encourage Latinos, among others, to come to the city center and claim it as their own. He wants the community to know they are stakeholders here. “That’s the goal for all of us — let everybody in the Latino, Hispanic community know (that) this city is ours. It’s all of ours,” said Montoya, co-operator of Wimpy and Fritz, an Ogden taco restaurant.
Arlene Anderson, the only Latina member of the Ogden school board and one of the organizers of last Saturday’s Día de los Muertos event at Ben Lomond High School, echoed that. The Ben Lomond event, which featured traditional Mexican music and dancing, a performance by SuenaTron, student art and more, was meant to help the Latino community develop a sense of belonging. California-based SuenaTron, which performs popteño music, is comprised of second-generation immigrants from Mexico.
“We all matter,” Anderson said.
Indeed, as Latino numbers surge, particularly in Ogden, the organizers of the varied activities are thrilled — the events help raise the profile of the population more to a level commensurate with its size and impact here.
“They’ve helped form and build the community,” said Montoya, a fourth-generation Mexican-American. Latinos account for 32% of Ogden’s 87,000 inhabitants as of last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, and 18.8% of the county’s 267,000 residents.
Such events, Alejandre goes on, shouldn’t occur only around the time of National Hispanic Heritage Month, timed to coincide with the independence celebrations of many Latin American countries between Sept. 15-18. “We need to have them at other times of the year,” he said.
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is typically celebrated Nov. 1-2 and is meant to remember and honor loved ones who have passed on, according to the Mexican Museum of San Francisco, California. It is particularly common in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, though it is also practiced to a lesser degree in some Central American nations.
“It’s extremely important for me,” said Anderson, noting the Mexican roots of her parents. “It’s a celebration, not a mourning.”
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