Background Story

Norma, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My name is Norma Carver, I am the founder and president of the nonprofit organization Oaxaca en Utah. My journey in Utah began in 2008, and at that time, I felt like a stranger in a new land. I am from Oaxaca, Mexico, and before coming to Utah, I had been living in Wisconsin with my family until my marriage brought me to Kaysville.

Utah welcomed me with its rolling hills and valleys, a landscape that reminded me of my hometown, Guadalupe Nuevo Centro. My initial impression of Utah was positive, but I was missing my family in Oaxaca, and my family in Wisconsin. I missed the food and the essence of Oaxaca that I had left behind.

In my journey to reconnect with my cultural roots, I set out to find Oaxacan restaurants in Utah. To my disappointment, there was none to be found during those early years. There was only one family I found from Oaxaca, the Maldonados, we became friends, and we became family.

As time went by, the Maldonados and I embarked on a mission to build a small Oaxacan community within the heart of Utah. It marked the inception of a story that would unite scattered Oaxacan residents and breathe life into our cultural heritage.

As I traveled across Utah for my photography business, I had the opportunity to meet people from various regions of Oaxaca, other Mexican states, and even different countries. These encounters sparked a profound idea within me – the idea of celebrating the rich diversity and traditions of Oaxaca, my cherished homeland.

The seed for what would become Oaxaca en Utah was planted during these interactions. I was inspired by the Oaxacan Guelaguetza festival, an event where people from diverse backgrounds within Oaxaca come together to share their food, textiles, stunning dresses, music, and more with the entire community. It was a beautiful celebration of culture and unity that I longed to bring to Utah.

The first Guelaguetza we organized in 2020, there were 30 friends from Oaxaca. In 2021, we decided to open it to the public in Kaysville, and it attracted around 550 people. This encouraging response ignited our ambition, and we started fundraising by selling food holding raffles, and preparing for La Guelaguetza each year.

To formalize our organization, I initiated the process of registering Oaxaca en Utah as a nonprofit in early 2022. As the Guelaguetza continued to grow, so did our organization’s reach. In July 2022, the event drew more than 7,000 attendees, and in 2023, 15,000 people participated in the day-long festival.

Oaxaca en Utah welcomes individuals from diverse cultures. Our organization has 35-40 dedicated volunteers from Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, and beyond. We embrace and cherish the opportunity to have people from all walks of life join us in celebrating our culture and becoming a part of our community. Oaxaca en Utah is growing and I love that.

I’m sure it wasn’t obstacle-free, but would you say the journey has been fairly smooth so far?
The journey of building Oaxaca en Utah…

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