Hispanics in Utah

The land of Utah was home to multiple Indigenous bands and tribes, such as the Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute tribes for thousands of years before Europeans came to the Americas. Historians believe that a number of Native Americans, including the Utes, share common ancestry with the Aztecs. In 502 B.C. a great migration of Aztecs moved South due to a major drought. As Europeans came to the continent, the Spanish Empire claimed ownership over the larger Southern and Southwest area after friars Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante explored New Mexico and Utah. This area, with Utah being the northernmost reaches, was taken as Mexican territory. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo passed ownership of the Southwest, about 50% of Mexican territory, to the United States. This treaty came after a battalion, of which 500 Mormon settlers participated, marched through Mexican territory. As more U.S. settlers came to the area, many generations of Mexicans who previously lived on the land were forced to leave. However, just a few decades later, Hispanics came to Utah in booming numbers to supply vital labor in the railroad, mining, and agricultural industries. This growth only continued with the advent of the Mexican Revolution in 1910.


Hispanics in Utah, unlike in other Southwestern states, did not have established Spanish-speaking communities to join. Nonetheless, beginning soon after large numbers of Hispanics began to move to Utah, groups of Hispanics in Utah actively created organizations to maintain cultural traditions and advocate for Hispanics at a governmental level.

Railroads and Miners

Mining, railroads, and agriculture were the primary industries which attracted migrant Hispanic laborers (mostly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans) to Utah during the early-twentieth century to Utah. Beginning in 1910, the Mexican Revolution caused a…

Sugar Beets and Sheep

In the beginning of the 20th century, Utah became one of the largest domestic American producers of sugar through sugar beet farming. The industry extended into neighboring states as well. The workers who planted and harvested those beets were mainly…

“This Gathering”

Compared to the rest of the American Southwest, Utah did not have as strong a Hispanic population until the twentieth century. Previously, Hispanic men had often moved to southern Utah to herd sheep and cattle for three quarters of the year before…

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission

In the first half of the twentieth century, religious diversity within Salt Lake was growing along with ethnic diversity. Saint Patrick’s Catholic Parish dedicated itself to ministering to Italian Catholics. However, Father Francis Alva noticed a…

The Guadalupe Center

In 1961, Father Jerald Merrill, a Catholic priest, was assigned to the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” Mission on the West side of Salt Lake City, Utah. With the mission having recently received a new building, all adults of the parish were invited to…

SOCIO: Reforming Utah’s Approach to Hispanic Education

At a December 1967 meeting held in the Guadalupe Center, over 150 people—including Father Jerald H. Merrill from the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” Mission and Bishop Orlando Rivera from the Lucero Spanish Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day…

SOCIO: Advocating for Hispanic in Utah

At a December 1967 meeting held in the Guadalupe Center, over 150 people—including Father Jerald H. Merrill from the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” Mission and Bishop Orlando Rivera from the Lucero Spanish Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day…

The "Most Important Event on Campus"

In 1974, the United States was home to over 11 million Spanish-speaking people. The Chicano Conference was organized in order to “understand and confront the challenges facing Spanish-speaking people in their struggle for education and for finding…