A University of Utah professor’s exhibit captures a 2006 march for immigration reform in photos

The display, ‘Invisible No More,’ can be seen at Salt Lake City’s Mestizo Coffeehouse, through Oct. 15.

(Minh Vuong | The Daily Utah Chronicle) The exhibit, “Invisible No More: Latinx’s Dignity March in Utah,” of the 2006 March for Immigration Reform by Dr. Armando Solorzano at Mestizo Coffeehouse in Salt Lake City on Sept. 24, 2023.

This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with student media at the University of Utah, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through emerging journalism.

On April 9, 2006, tens of thousands of people marched down Salt Lake City’s State Street for humane immigration reform – a protest outnumbering the city’s protests of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.

An organizer of the 2006 march, University of Utah professor Armando Solórzano, recently created an exhibit, “Invisible No More: Latinx’s Dignity March in Utah,” to honor the march and give voice to the millions of undocumented immigrants throughout Utah and the country.

The exhibit is on display at Mestizo Coffeehouse, 631 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City. It’s free and open to the public until Oct. 15, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Solórzano said the exhibit’s purpose is not only to educate the community, but to provide undocumented immigrants in Utah the chance to feel recognized.

“A lot of people recognize themselves in the march,” he said. “This is not only a historical exhibition. It’s alive.”

The exhibit consists of 60 framed photos, as well as poems, newspaper articles and original T-shirts from the event spread throughout the shop. All captions are provided in English and Spanish.

Photos throughout the exhibit display pictures of Latinx parents holding children on their shoulders, signs reading, “Without me, your economy goes down,” and crowds of marchers wearing white to promote peace.

“I work under the assumption that an image talks a thousand times more than words,” Solórzano said.

(Minh Vuong | The Daily Utah Chronicle) Dr. Armando Solorzano, creator of the exhibit, “Invisible No More: Latinx’s Dignity March in Utah,” of the 2006 March for Immigration Reform, is interviewed at Mestizo Coffeehouse in Salt Lake City on Sept. 24, 2023.

Multiple photos of the crowd are displayed at the exhibit, some of which have been thought to be doctored to show more attendees. Solórzano denied any such tampering, and estimated that the crowd was around 43,000 people — though city police at the time reported only 25,000.

Solórzano said the inspiration for the photo exhibit came from a teaching method used in Latinx education involving photo analysis.

Because English is the official language of the state, and many Latinx people do not know English, they are taught to analyze photos to learn a story, he said. Similarly, Solórzano said he wanted to teach the community about the march through this lens.

The photos represent not just Utah’s past, but the future, Solórzano said.

“I want [viewers] to recognize the amazing capacity of the people,” he said.

Solórzano said he has seen both positive and negative outcomes since the 2006 march.

He pointed to various children in photos who are now students at the U.

“All these kids were marching on their parents’ shoulders, which to me is very symbolic,” he said. “It is the immigrants that carry the future of this nation.”

On the other hand, he said he feels the Latinx community is still under-resourced and discriminated against in Utah.

“Many times people tell us to go home,” he said. “Well, this is our home. … This is the land of my ancestors. This is where they work, this is where they die, this is where I am and this is where we are going to be.”

David Galvan, co-owner of Mestizo Coffeehouse, translated “mestizo” to mean “mixed blood,” or a combination of many different cultures. Galvan described Mestizo as a shop founded by artists who wanted to create a safe community space for those of all cultures. which created the perfect environment for the exhibit.

Galvan also said the University of Utah has been a “huge collaborator” with Mestizo, which has created relationships with various members of faculty and staff, including Solórzano.

“Invisible No More: Latinx’s Dignity March in Utah” has been displayed numerous times in such locations as Washington, D.C., and Mexico City — to honor the millions of immigrants in the United States and remind them of their right to dignity.

“We will take the challenge to prove who we are and defend the rights of immigrants,” Solórzano said. “They have the right to have a country and to be protected.”

Libbey Hanson wrote this story as a student at the University of Utah. It is published as part of an ongoing collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.