Filed Under Religion

Spanish Speaking Saints and La Rama Mexicana

When immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries began settling in Utah in the early 20th century, many of them converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Eventually, La Rama Mexicana—The Mexican Branch—was formed in the early 1920’s.

At the end of the 19th century, Utah was in an economic boom that would change the course of its history. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, thousands of immigrants flooded the state to work in mines that sprung up across Utah. Although initially very few of these immigrants were from Mexico, the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 resulted in Mexicans fleeing north to escape conflict. Although the Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924 had placed quotas on the number of people that could immigrate from each country, the need for laborers allowed a large number of Mexicans to obtain a permit to temporarily enter the country. The number of Spanish-speaking immigrants in Utah continued to grow throughout the following decades as they sought work on railroads, on farms, and in mines. While the 1890 census only recorded 19 Mexican people living in Utah, by 1920 there were 1,083. These immigrants created a thriving hub of Hispanic culture in Salt Lake City’s west side. 

After their arrival in Salt Lake City, many of these immigrants were converted and baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. However, very few of them spoke English, the predominant language of the Church in Utah. Noticing a problem, Juan Ramon Martinez, Margarito Buatista, and Francisco Solano sought permission from church leadership to hold meetings in Spanish. In April of 1921, the first Spanish meeting was held in a rented restaurant. The meeting was attended by 19 Latter-Day Saints and 33 non-members being taught by missionaries. On May 15, 1923, the members of this congregation were made into an official branch called La Rama Mexicana. 

Two years later the branch began meeting in available rooms in the 6th Stake meetinghouse. In 1950, La Rama Mexicana received their own meetinghouse after three years of construction. Just a decade later, the brach became the Lucero Ward. The population of Spanish-speakers continued to grow and, as of 2019, there were 58 Spanish-speaking wards and branches in Utah.

Images

"Mexicans Await New Church"
"Mexicans Await New Church" April 8, 1945 copy of The Salt Lake Tribune, with an article giving some of the history of the Lucero Ward and the process of building a meetinghouse. Source:

Church History Library. Lucero Ward bishop's files, 1945-1973, 1992-2000; Miscellaneous items, 1945-1952. Available at https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/6f0a2638-995c-4211-99f1-8b7a2f41af02/0/0

Members of La Rama Mexicana
Members of La Rama Mexicana Members of La Rama Mexicana in front of the 6th Stake Meetinghouse, where they held church meetings between the years of 1925 – 1950. Photo taken in 1930. Source: J. Willard Marriot Library. MSS C 1976 We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe: Latinos in Utah Exhibit. Available at https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6z35jq5/1179381
Lucero Ward meetinghouse
Lucero Ward meetinghouse Photos of the Lucero Ward meetinghouse as viewed from Goltz street. Source:

 Church History Library. Physical Facilities Department photograph collection, circa 1890-1988; L; Lucero Ward (formerly the 30th Ward), Salt Lake Liberty Stake; Lucero Ward (formerly the 30th Ward), Salt Lake Liberty Stake. Available at https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/ff914231-8dbd-4f4b-b9ed-a550587107a9/0/0 

Location

Metadata

Maggie Allen, Brigham Young University, “Spanish Speaking Saints and La Rama Mexicana,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 23, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/643.