Utah’s Latino Communities

Utah became a territory of the United States after the Mexican American War ended in 1848. Since then, many Latinos (or people from twenty-seven different Central and South American countries) have worked and lived in Utah.

Push and Pull Factors

The violence of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) was a push factor that sent many Mexican immigrants north to live and work in Utah. Jobs in the mining industry were a pull factor that drew Latinos to Utah.


Members of the Lucero Ward Relief Society, circa 1938

By 1900, many Latinos lived in Monticello, in San Juan County. There they worked as cowboys and sheepherders. Other Latino communities formed in Salt Lake, Ogden, and Carbon County. Many Latinos worked for railroad and mining companies. Some owned businesses in Utah’s cities. For example, Abraham Mejia owned a café in Salt Lake City. In Ogden, many Latina women and mothers joined the workforce.

Building Community

Latinos shaped Utah’s cultural backdrop. They opened restaurants to add their culinary talents to Utah’s growing dining options. Latinos also attended Utah’s different churches. They built the first Catholic Church in Utah in Monticello. There were also Latino members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes Catholic and Mormon Latinas worked together to serve their neighbors. For example, Bertha Mayer, a Catholic, and Maria Luz Solorio, a Mormon, were friends who organized activities and collected funds for mutual aid societies together.


Latinos worked in Utah’s mining and railroad industry and many other jobs. Those who lived in Utah during the Great Depression struggled, whether they lived on a farm, a small town, or in the city. Some had to leave Utah to find work. Many women entered the workforce to provide for themselves and their families. The federal government forced others to move back to Mexico. Some Latinos moved to New Mexico, and the federal government forced some Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants to move back to Mexico.

Advertisement for an early Spanish-speaking establishment in Salt Lake City

After World War I and during World War II, many Latinos moved to Utah to work for the Bingham Copper Mine and the coal mines in Carbon County. Latinos also served in the United States military during World Wars I and II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. In fact, by the end of World War II, 500,000 had served in all the branches of the United States military, and Latinos had earned seventeen Medals of Honor. About seventy-two men and women of the Monticello Ward of the LDS Church served in World War II. When they returned home, many Latino veterans worked to gain equal rights and to stop discrimination. Veterans continued to fight for their rights because they knew they belonged in their country.

Fighting Discrimination

Discrimination led many Latinos to unite to work for change and inclusion. During the early 1900s, some restaurants, motels, hotels, bowling alleys, swimming pools, and other businesses would not let Latinos or Latinas buy things, eat, or stay at their establishments. Prejudice often meant that Latinos did not have their choice of jobs and that they couldn’t enjoy social life the same as others.

Latinos resisted discrimination in several ways. One way was to create political and civic organizations including La Sociedad Mexicana Cuauhtémoc, an organization of Mexican Americans living in Helper. La Sociedad promoted Mexican culture and traditions to challenge stereotypes. La Sociedad also provided financial and material help to Latinos who did not make enough money. Some Latinos fought for their rights by joining national organizations like the United Mine Workers of America. Since the 1990s, Latinos have organized to protect the rights of documented and undocumented immigrants.


Today Latinos are the largest minority group in Utah. In fact, Utah’s Latino population continues to increase. For example, since 1900, the Latino population has increased by 140 percent. Latinos make up at least 10 percent of Carbon County’s population. During the late twentieth century, Utah’s Latino population grew as immigrants from Central and South America arrived in the state. While Latinos continue to face discrimination, their presence, culture, and labor are a significant part of Utah’s history. Many continue to work toward achieving economic, political, and educational equality for themselves and their children.

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