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Hispanic American Civil Rights Convention Comes to Utah

Andrea Smardon
LULAC booths are set up in advance of the convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

For the first time in its 86-year history, the League of United Latin American Citizens is holding its annual convention in Salt Lake City. The civil rights advocacy organization is expecting 20,000 attendees from Utah and around the country this week.

Among the special guests is Jaime Luis Gómez of the Black Eyed Peas, better known by his stage name Taboo. His song “One Heart One Beat” was penned in opposition to Arizona’s immigration bill 1070.

Also expected at the Salt Palace Convention Center are Dr. Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General, as well as local officials Senator Orrin Hatch, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Police Chief Mike Brown. Luis Torres, director of policy for the League of United Latin American Citizens, says these conventions have grown tremendously since they started back in 1929.

“The initial conventions when we started off were held in secret behind barber shops because it was illegal for Mexican Americans to gather in public and demand their civil rights,” Torres says. “We’ve come a long way from there.”

Torres says Utah was selected for the convention in part because of the large shift in demographics occurring here.

“A quarter of the population in Salt Lake City alone is Latino, and 78% of the growth in Utah over the last five years has been because of the Latino population,” Torres says. “So this is a very special state to us. We are here to try to provide services, information, resources to the community.”  

The convention runs from July 7th through the 11th. It will focus on immigration reform, access to healthcare, education opportunities, building trust with police, and voter participation. Organizers say most of the events are free and open to the public.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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