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Hundreds of singers and dancers performed Latino songs and dances before a live audience in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, December 17, 2016. The 800 adults and children of the volunteer cast were part of the annual Latino Christmas event titled “Luz de las Naciones, Venid Adoremos” (“Light of the Nations, Come Let Us Worship”). The free event, now in its 12th year, was in Spanish with English and Portuguese translations.
“Our goal is to have the community bring their families to Temple Square and enjoy the concert and Christmas atmosphere,” said Loren Ashcraft, a producer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has been involved in the program for 11 years. “This is about the community at large.”
The volunteer participants included 250 dancers, three choirs made up of 380 adults and 80 children and a small orchestra. The performers were dressed in festive costumes as they shared their talents and Christmas traditions with guests of all ages.
“They have a love for what they do,” said Ashcraft. “Multiple generations have participated in this Latin-based cultural event.” He said the annual program has been life-changing for some of the participants over the years by bringing them closer to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The 90-minute program “represents a whole spectrum of Hispanic origin from Mexico to Latin America to Spain,” explained Ashcraft. Performances included a processional, Jalisco dancing and a Mariachi group.
The program included traditional Latin songs such as “Cholito Jesús,” “Los peces en el rio,” “Burrito sabanero” and a cast performance of “Villancico al Rey.”
One segment featured a story that included the depiction of Samuel the Lamanite from the Book of Mormon. The audience also participated in the program by singing during four songs as the words were displayed on large screens.
Ashcraft said the production utilized the set of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas performances with a few additions, including a manger scene and a very large 18-foot piñata built by volunteers.
The Christmas production is months in the making. Auditions for the singing and dancing roles begin in July. No one who wants to participate is turned away.
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to be involved with the Latino community,” reflected Ashcraft, who served a mission for the Church in Central America. “The Latin people have a spirit about them that is contagious and powerful.”
The program will be shared during future Christmas seasons on BYUtv International and the Mormon Channel.