The History of Ogden’s Latino Culture through One Man’s Eyes

Manny Garcia’s parents found their way to the US from Mexico before he was born. Now 44, the Ogden native can see beneficial effects of the Latino culture throughout this northern Utah city.


The history of Ogden’s Latino culture through one man’s eyes. 

OGDEN Manny Garcia’s parents found their way to the US from Mexico before he was born. Now 44, the Ogden native can see beneficial effects of the Latino culture throughout this northern Utah city.

Latinos and Hispanics make up about 30 percent of Ogden’s 87,000 residents, according to the US Census figures published in mid-2022. Data reported by the Pew Research Center tracking growth of the Hispanic population in US counties for decades indicated that only 5.9 percent of Weber County residents had Hispanic origins in 1980. Ogden is the largest city and also the county seat in Weber County.

As the youngest of his five sisters and two brothers, Garcia grew up watching his mother, Raquel Garcia, deftly navigate the city’s social strata. As a kindhearted woman who could neither read nor write, she worked hard and always extended a helping hand, Garcia recalls.

“She was the type of person who could make friends with anyone, so that kind of started her life (in Ogden),” he said.

Both his parents passed on more than a decade ago, but Garcia enjoys reminiscing about how he and Ogden have evolved over the past four decades.

His father worked for Southern Pacific Railroad, and those ties often brought the family into downtown Ogden.

“I was always with my mom, and we would drive down to 25th Street at a time when you didn’t go down there because there was nothing for anybody other than trouble,” Garcia said of the area’s rough-and-tumble  past.

As a small child, he remembers finding his Dad’s friends in the Roosevelt Hotel and inviting them to dinner.

“That was kind of the routine. Sometimes I’d have to go into the bars, sometimes I’d have to look around in the park and on the benches. We’d round up my dad’s friends, They’d come over and my mom would cook,” Garcia said.

That generous spirit permeated his upbringing, causing his family circle to broaden organically as they embraced a larger community devoted to helping each other. 

“It got me immersed into downtown Ogden,” Garcia said. “It’s been neat to see it transform not only into places but also into the community it’s become.”

Garcia attended and graduated from Ben Lomond HIgh School, earned his associates degree from Weber State University, and, following in his older brother’s footsteps, obtained a degree in Graphics Design and Visual Communications from the Art Institute of Salt Lake City.

“At the time, we didn’t have stock photography or the means to do video, so we basically created all those elements on our own,” Garcia said, noting that his signage and window graphics work can be seen in businesses up and down Historic 25th Street.

Garcia also designs branding for Zolupez, a craft brewery that manufactures Mexican beer on Ogden’s lower 29th Street.

At one time Garcia and his former wife owned and operated Pandemonium, a downtown art gallery that provided space for local talent to display their works.

Just over three years ago, he began working part-time for Ogden’s Own Distillery, a gig that quickly evolved into a full time job with Garcia as the thriving company’s marketing director.

Another Ogden transplant from Mexico shares Garcia’s love for Hispanic and Latino culture and how it has helped shape Ogden. 

Luis Lopez at the Ogden Community Education Center. Photos courtesy of Ogden City Council.

Luis Lopez moved to Ogden 25 years ago at the age of 19. Now 45, Lopez is finishing his second term on the Ogden City Council and has directed community education and outreach for Weber State University for 10 years

“The Hispanic community has had a tremendous impact in many aspects: culturally, socially, in the labor force,” Lopez said, noting its significant presence in the construction, restaurant and hospitality industries. “There are a lot of business owners as well, most of them small mom-and-pop’s. [There are] a lot of contributions there.” 

Similar to Garcia, Lopez sought out higher education in Utah and eventually earned a Masters degree in education, leadership and policy. 

“When I came here, maybe there was one Mexican store in Ogden, and maybe one authentic Mexican restaurant,” Lopez said. “Now there are dozens and dozens. Gastronomically, we love to share our food.”


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