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First Utah Latino Expo shares culture with mainstream population

Utah’s fastest growing population came out Friday to share its culture with the mainstream population. It’s the first Utah Latino Expo with more than three dozen vendors, live entertainment, and food. This all-day event started with an idea two years ago.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 UTAH)- Utah’s fastest growing population came out Friday to share its culture with the mainstream population. It’s the first Utah Latino Expo with more than three dozen vendors, live entertainment, and food. This all-day event started with an idea two years ago.

Utah has a Latino population of about 365,000 and it’s the third highest state in the nation for a growing Latino demographic.

The sounds of Latino culture filled the Salt Palace Friday. Vendors lined the exhibition hall from authentic Peruvian cuisine at El Rocoto to all kinds of food at Chow Time. The expo included it all.

“Latinos are very under-represented when it comes to government and other institutions and that comes from a lack of communication skills,” said expo organizer Juan Ruiz.

Ruiz says the importance of communication and understanding grows as more Latinos call Utah home.

“When I moved here, I thought I was the only Latina girl and it was really hard for me. But now through the years, over 10 years, it's growing really fast,” said Jessica Swick.

Jessica Swick owns Jessica Delgado Modeling Agency. She says she wants to teach all girls, not just Latinas, the importance of self-esteem along with beauty. For Swick, the expo shows the need for a better partnership between Latinos and other Utahns.

“We come here; we learn about and adjust ourselves to the american community. And now it's time for us to share all of our culture with them,” said Swick.

The Little Cake Shop in Sandy is just one of many Latino-owned businesses in the Wasatch Front. Gerardo Bellazetin wants to build a 36,000 square foot Latino Mall featuring retail space and a soccer complex.

“We deserve to have a first class place that's dedicated to the Latino community that's a long time coming,” said Bellazetin.

About 1,200 people came to Friday’s expo. But Ruiz says next year, he may choose a different location with more parking options. He may also move the expo to a Saturday or Sunday so more people can attend next year.

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