Skip to main content

Valley Journals

Awards banquet commemorates famous civil rights activist and local Latino community advocates

May 09, 2018 04:53PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Utah State Representative Angela Romero speaks to the Cesar Chavez Peace and Justice Awards Banquet. (UCLR)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | keyrak@mycityjournals.com

On March 24, the Utah Coalition of La Raza held the 25th annual Cesar Chavez Peace and Justice Awards Banquet at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center (UCCC). The banquet was named for social activist Cesar Chavez and honoring the work that he did.

"It became about honoring community leaders that were continuing the work, that advocacy, having that impact for Latinos in Utah," said Richard Jaramillo, currently in his second year as president of the UCLR.

The Utah Coalition of La Raza was formed in 1992 and when Chavez passed away in 1993, the banquet was created and named after him. It became an awards banquet to recognize individuals and organizations within the Latin community who exemplified the message of Chavez and bolstered the community within Utah.

With the 25th anniversary of the awards banquet, the annual lifetime achievement award is being renamed after Robert "Archie" Archuleta, a longtime community activist, and was presented to the 2018 awardee Andrew “Andy” L. Gallegos.

Gallegos is being awarded for his years of leadership, service, and advocacy that include serving with U.S. Army Intelligence in Panama from 1963 to 1965, helping to form the first statewide Chicano Conference in 1972, and was one of the team that in 1979, brought Cesar Chavez to Utah among his many other contributions.

Crescencio López-González, an assistant professor of Latinx Studies at Utah State University, Utah State Representative Angela Romero and Comunidades Unidas | Communities United were also awarded for services and contributions made for the betterment of Latin communities throughout Utah.

The awards banquet also serves as a fundraiser and Jaramillo said it was the most successful one so far. During the two-hour event, dinner was served by a Lindon-based Latina caterer while live on-stage entertainment and folk dancers performed. This was the first year that the UCCC had been used for the event. 

"We mix it up and do things little bit differently every year," said Jaramillo, pleased with the turnout. "We had run out of capacity at our previous venue last year."

Along with the awards banquet, UCLR also works with Granite and Salt Lake School Districts to hold a visual and language arts competition that's built around Caesar Chavez and social justice so the kids learn a little bit about Chavez and other civil right activists, then they compete in the arts competition. The school districts have been involved for several years and while the teachers change the focus a little bit, it works largely to give some context and history to different social justice movements such as labor rights, environmental justice and social justice, causes that Caesar Chavez took up along with Dolores Huerta and others during the 1970s and ‘80s. 

The middle and high school students also touch on the Civil Rights movement and LGBTQ issues. While putting each issue in context and showing the activism and advocacy from the past, the partnership hopes to keep those legacies going through visual mediums such as charcoal, watercolor, painting and mixed media and through poems, essays and prose on the literature mediums. The 2018 grand prize winner was a collage of different styles and pieces.

"They give that teaching first and then they allow the kids to express themselves and their thoughts on what that means today through whatever kind of visual arts representation they choose, or through a language arts entry piece," said Jaramillo, who said that a lot of great work is submitted every year.

The school districts pick the winners from different grade levels and the UCLR invite the winners and their families to attend the awards banquet to receive the awards on stage.

The UCLR is made up of volunteers who work in several different areas to help and advocate on issues such as education, immigration, courts and legislature, tracking bills and giving testimony.

"We also do a lot of mediation work with police agencies or schools, we oftentimes get members of the community that don't feel comfortable confronting institutions on their own and so we often try and act as a facilitator and try to bring community members into a forum where they feel more comfortable trying to voice their concerns and perhaps get change affected from those institutions," said Jaramillo. 

The UCLR also holds other free events such as movie screenings, local fairs, panels, workshops and know-your-rights campaigns including a panel discussing myths surrounding immigration and DACA.

For information about upcoming events, visit: https://www.uclr.org/