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The City Journals

Salt Lake Valley celebrates Mexican culture May 3-5

May 02, 2019 03:34PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Granger High School “Cinco’s” like no other. The annual carnival raises funds for the GHS Latinos in Action class. (Photo Credit Braydon Eden/Granger High School)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Just as St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland does not assume the rollicking persona it has here in the United States, the Cinco de Mayo holiday is more restrained in Mexico than it is in the parts of the United States which do celebrate it.

According to the History Channel, Cinco de Mayo, or May 5, is a “relatively minor holiday in Mexico,” which celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France during the Franco-Mexican War.

Here in the United States, the holiday has “evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.”

The Salt Lake take

Enter Salt Lake County, where both Salt Lake City (21.3 percent of its population is Hispanic or Latino) and South Salt Lake (21 percent of its population) are cited by Wikipedia on its “List of Mexican-American Communities” and where the county is situated in a state where Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority population, now comprising 14 percent of the state’s overall population, according to the US Census Bureau.

“For the Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Hispanics who live in Midvale, Salt Lake County and Utah, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo represents an opportunity to revive our heritage, proud of who we are and grateful for how we have been received in our communities,” explained Jose Vicente Borjon Lopez-Coterilla, Mexico’s consul in Utah.

“It helps us showcase our culture, and our love for both countries and to share with younger generations the values that make us stronger,” the diplomat added. “We appreciate how cities like Midvale, Salt Lake County, and Utah have been welcoming to Mexicans and their interest in fostering our integration to the fabric of their communities and at the same time maintaining and supporting our expressions of our values and heritage.”

With Lopez-Coterilla setting the tone here, The City Journals looks at what is going on in our neck of the woods – or en nuestro cuello de los bosques.

Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 – Midvale’s 32nd UCDM
Midvale City Park, Midvale, 50 W. 7500 South

Midvale’s UCDM (Utah’s Cinco de Mayo) is literally the granddaddy of the valley’s celebrations.

Longtime Midvale businessman and resident Fausto Rivas started the festival at the urging of the Midvale mayor 30-plus years ago. Today, at age 85, Rivas and his wife, Dolores, literally sit back and enjoy the festivities that West Jordan-based daughter Dolores Pahl and her husband execute, along with multiple generations of the family.

“It brings me joy,” said daughter Pahl of the year-long preparations that culminate in two days of celebrations – neither of which is actually on May 5, due to its falling on a Sunday, a day eschewed by many in Utah for partying. 

Midvale’s population, according to the 2017 Census, is 23.5 percent Hispanic or Latino, giving the spirit of the festival authenticity boost.

Proceeds from the event go directly to the Midvale Boys & Girls Club. “Our main focus is to give back to the community,” said Pahl.

Friday, May 3 - Granger de Mayo
Granger High School (Outside by ball field), WVC, 3580 S. 3600 West

West Valley City’s Granger High School (GHS) is a Cinco de Mayo veteran, having produced its trademark “Cinco de Mayo Carnival” since 2016. As Utah’s second-most populous city, West Valley City (WVC) is even more diverse than Midvale, with 37.7 percent of the population being Hispanic or Latino.

The high school is even more diverse than WVC, speaking to Utah’s growth in diversity coming from immigrants having families. GHS is 59.97 percent Hispanic or Latino, and is the only high school City Journals encountered offering up such an epic Cinco de Mayo celebration. The annual event garners an audience of 300-400 each year, and is planned and executed by the school’s Latinos in Action (LIA) class to share the Latino culture. Proceeds from the event support LIA classroom activities.

On Friday, May 3, GHS presents the 2019 Cinco de Mayo Carnival, complete with dance, food, games, and, per the flyer, “So much more!” Attendance is free. All food items are $1. Most games cost $1, with special games like blow-up jousting and the dunk tank costing $2. Other games include soccer kick, a bungee run, knock the cans down, egg relay, balloon-darts, Foosball, cup pong, stack-the-cups, three-legged race, basketball shot, and sponge relay, according to Braydon Eden, Granger teacher and assistant coach of the high school’s soccer team. 

“We have speakers set up and will be playing music,” said Eden. “We will intermittently have dance contests.” 

Music will include a mix of Hispanic and popular American music. Bachata (from the Dominican Republic, with indigenous African and European musical elements), Cumbia (folkloric rhythm and dance considered “the backbone of Latin American music” by NPR), and Payaso del Rodeo (incredibly fast line dancing which one YouTuber depicted as “Not your typical electric slide, more like electrocuted slide”) are all on the musical menu.  

Younger children will enjoy the face painting and balloon animals offered.

The event takes place at GHS and runs from 4:30-7:30 p.m., preceding the evening’s soccer game against cross-town rival Hunter High School. 

Saturday, May 4 -Taylorsville ties tree planting with Cinco de Mayo
Millrace Park, Taylorsville, 1150 W. 5400 South

Fresh off hosting last month’s highly engaging “First Latino Town Hall” featuring the state’s Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and other representatives discussing politics — often in fluid, elegant Spanish — with citizens, the city of Taylorsville presents a Cinco de Mayo-themed tree-planting event where children can learn the benefits of ecological stewardship and cultural exchange. 

The first 40 children on site will receive pots and seeds to grow their own mini-gardens. All will help plant eight new trees in the park. The City asks that volunteers bring their own shovels and gloves to help plant the trees.

Cinco de Mayo piñatas take center stage at 10:30 a.m. The event offers complimentary snacks and music entertainment. Taylorsville is 20.8 percent Hispanic, and this blended event is a great way to honor the city’s cultural diversity. Event organized and executed by the Taylorsville Parks and Recreation Committee and Cultural Diversity Committee.

Another type of fifth

Friday, May 3, Church and State Business Incubator, Downtown SLC, 370 S. 300 East

The Hammered Copper wants to prepare Salt Lake revelers to host their own Cinco de Mayo parties.

Offering a “Copper Cup” class on Friday night, licensed educator and proprietor Alexi Johnson noted, “Most of the time when you think of Cinco de Mayo, you think of bright colors and lots of tequila, but you don’t think about the cool traditions that surround it.”

For Johnson, these cool traditions include the sublime secrets of tequila. Tequila’s many flavors will be paired with food from Liberty Heights Fresh Market. 

The hands-on “let’s not just drink, but learn how to make them, too” event takes place at Church and State downtown. Cost is $50. Class starts promptly at 5 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. Original class filled up quickly, so an additional 10 seats were added. Tickets still available at press time. (801) 448-7891 or [email protected]

Sunday, May 5, Park City Culinary Institute, 1484 S. State Street

For an event taking place on “the” Cinco de Mayo, The Park City Culinary Institute presents its Sunday evening Cinco de Mayo Chef’s Tasting Dinner.

Hors d’oeuvres and dinner courses are paired with tequila agave spirits from Eden, Utah’s craft distillery, the New World Distillery. Menu includes street tacos, mole verde and flan.

Dinner held at Park City Culinary Institute in Salt Lake. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Prix fixe dinner ($75) starts at 6 p.m. Guests limited to 30. Tickets still available at press time. [email protected] or (801) 413-2800.

Family fun on the fifth

Sunday, May 5 – A birthday party built for families on Cinco de Mayo proper
Sugar Space Arts Warehouse, Salt Lake City’s River District, 132 S. 800 West

Also being held on May 5 is the complimentary “Cinco de Mayo with WestSide Dance” festival. 

Running from noon-6 p.m. at downtown’s Sugar Space Arts Warehouse, the party celebrates not just Cinco de Mayo, but the dance studio’s 21st birthday. The lineup of activities includes outdoor games, food trucks, a bike and car show, chorale and dance performances, an auction, and karaoke and baile – also known as a dance-floor gathering.

“We invite everyone to come out and enjoy a day of food, fun, games and dancing,” encouraged WestSide Dance Founder and Executive Director Maxine Lucero.