Popular Religiosity In the Latino Communities of Utah
Photography by Armando Solórzano. Ph.D.
Presentation: Tue, Sep 5, 6–7pm, Rooms B & C
Reception: Tue, Sep 5, 7–8:30pm, Lower Urban Room
The Catholic Church in Utah has the second highest religious population in the state, following The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Of Utah Catholics, approximately 80–85 percent are Latino and/or Hispanic. The history of Latinos and of Catholicism in Utah started in 1776 with the expedition of Franciscan Fathers Dominguez and Escalante, and today, many Latinos in the state carry on their forbearers’ legacy by living in communities inspired by faith, hope, and devotional piety.
Latino theologians in the U.S. tend to agree that Holy Week and the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas, are the two events during which Latinos carry out their unique religious practices most visibly and passionately. These religious-cultural practices can be characterized most accurately as popular religiosity—religious and spiritual praxis created by people whose faith in God imbues their everyday lives with sanctity and grace.
Popular religiosity represents the syncretism of Western Christianity and Native religious believes. It allows people to reclaim the human dignity they lost to colonization and racial oppression, and to assert their belief that God walks with them, suffers with them, and at the end, will grant them eternal life through the victory of the Resurrection.
Dr. Armando Solórzano created this photo-documentary during Holy Week as it occurred in the past three years. He visited three Latino parishes in the Salt Lake Valley to explore how popular religiosity manifests itself in our state. The exhibit covers the celebration of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. Through his work, he found that popular religiosity among Catholic Latinos expresses the plurality of Native and European culture while proclaiming the unity of the Gospel. It reaffirms spiritual notion of wholeness and oneness: One Humanity, One Spirit, and One Kingdom of freedom, peace, and justice.
Armando Solórzano is a professor at the University of Utah, where he holds joint appointments in Ethnic Studies and Family and Consumer Studies. For the last seventeen years, he has used photography to document the history of ethnic minority groups and marginalized populations in Utah and abroad. Dr. Solórzano uses photography as a pedagogical, philosophical, and artistic gateway to the lives and histories of neglected communities. His ethno-photographic exhibits have been displayed in Utah, California, Washington, D.C., and Mexico.
In 2004, Dr. Solórzano was awarded the Governor's Award in the Humanities for his exhibit on the history of Latinos in Utah: We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe. Later, in 2008, City Weekly recognized his photo-documentary on immigration as the Best Political Art Exhibit in Utah. This collection of over fifty frames documented the Dignity March in support of unauthorized immigrants living in the Beehive State. In the spring of 2017, the University of Utah conferred upon Dr. Solórzano the Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to bring together his research, pedagogy, and community service. For Dr. Solórzano, photography provides a way for us to examine how we intentionally construct our own realities, deny other peoples experiences, and the way we give meaning to our lives. He is currently writing two books, based on photography and visual devices, with the goal of helping overlooked and historically forgotten communities preserve their legacies, cultures, and traditions.
Location: Main Library, Lower Urban Room Gallery
Contact Information: 801-524-8200