Growing Up Latinx in Utah: A Conversation with Lee Martinez and Maria Garciaz

Date: February 6, 2023 (Season 5, Episode 9: 40 minutes long). Click here for the BuzzSprout version of this Speak Your Piece episode. Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here. The episode was co-produced by Brad Westwood and Chelsey Zamir, with sound engineering and post-production editing by Jason T. Powers, from the Utah State Library Recording Studio. The above photograph is of Mexican children in Salt Lake City’s west side (n.d.), used in the book “The Peoples of Utah,” (1976, pg. 424). Photo courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.

In this episode, we talk about growing up Hispanic in Utah. Maria Garciaz (chief executive officer of NeighborWorks Salt Lake, a nonprofit organization created to revitalize Salt Lake City neighborhoods), speaks about growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s Salt Lake City, mostly west of the Jordan River. Lee Martinez (longtime activist, school counselor, and political advisor) speaks of growing up near Clearfield and Layton; for a time in Anchorage, a temporary housing development (1942-1962) built outside of the U.S. Naval Supply Depot. Both Lee and Maria speak of their parents and families, their childhood memories, and how their horizons were expanded, and their life’s work were set in motion, through their pursuit of education, civic engagement, and their involvement in the University of Utah’s Chicano Student Association, and other Hispanic and Latino based organizations, which were established in 1960s to 1980s Utah.

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Their memories shared include early memories of family life as itinerant farm workers; their lives as temporary renters, moving constantly; their memories of moving in to predominantly white neighborhoods and being treated poorly as their new neighbors resisted their presence; their families working hard, caring for their homes, as a means of demonstrating their equal value; feeling hostilities as teenagers, observing the discrimination their parents and families endured; and growing up Roman Catholic in Utah.

Bio: Maria Garciaz is the chief executive officer of NeighborWorks Salt Lake. She has also worked for Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Board, the Federal Reserve Bank (Salt Lake City branch), served on Utah’s Board of Juvenile Justice, and she has served on the Utah Board of State History. (Photograph courtesy of

Bio: Lee Martinez is a longtime activist, civic leader, and businessman. In his youth, he was active in the University of Utah’s Chicano Student Association. He has also served and worked with Pete Suazo, Utah’s first Hispanic state senator. Martinez was director of Hispanic Affairs during Governor Mike Leavitt’s administration, and in the office of Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson. Most recently, he is the academic advisor at Salt Lake Community College.

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