Menu
In the News

‘Luz de las Naciones’ celebrates 20th anniversary in ‘special’ return to Conference Center

More than 500 musical artists representing a variety of Latin American countries celebrate through music and dance

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for the annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones.”

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones” in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


‘Luz de las Naciones’ celebrates 20th anniversary in ‘special’ return to Conference Center

More than 500 musical artists representing a variety of Latin American countries celebrate through music and dance

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for the annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones.”

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones” in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

More than 500 musical artists representing a wide variety of Latin American countries celebrated unity and belonging through uplifting music and traditional dance as thousands watched “Luz de las Naciones” (“Light of the Nations”) Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

The event marked the 20th anniversary of “Luz de las Naciones,” a celebration of Latin American culture, and a return to in-person performance after two years of virtual programs in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Returning to the Conference Center stage added greater meaning to this year’s theme, “Juntos es Mejor,” or “Better Together,” said Israel Gonzalez Nieri, the music director.

“We’ve been apart for two years,” he said. “But most importantly, ‘Luz de las Naciones’ has become a family for me and I think it has become a family for many, many people.”

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal.

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones” in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, attended the program in the Conference Center with his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks. 

“Luz de las Naciones” provides a way for many to reconnect with roots and learn to appreciate other cultures, said Elder Federico M. Kähnlein, an Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“This is a way to get together, get to know other cultures and remember our cultures,” he said. “There’s a feeling a unity, of belonging, and it’s open to everybody. It’s a way to feel and remember what is important to us.”

Although planning and organizing the event sometimes felt like starting a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, Elder Kähnlein said many witnessed miracles and felt heavenly support throughout the process.

Performers dance under the lights during a dress rehearsal.

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture, “Luz de las Naciones,” in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The program featured a 300-member choir, a full orchestra, and more than 200 dancers in colorful costumes who performed numbers representing Ecuador, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico and Chile.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered a message of unity as part of the program. The Apostle from Brazil also expressed gratitude for each performer and all who have contributed to this celebration of Hispanic culture over the last 20 years.

“I hope that you are enjoying this occasion and that you can feel how the unity of thought, culture, emotion and faith are important elements of our unity with God and his Son Jesus Christ,” Elder Soares said in Spanish. “Through the Savior’s Atonement, we can live in unity and enjoy peace in this life and prepare to live with the Father and His Son forever. I believe that each of us can foster that norm of unity among our friends, our family, our community and especially those who are different from us.”

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal.

Performers dance during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones” in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The opportunity to perform in “Luz de las Naciones” was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Martha Alejandra Vera Rodriguez, a 24-year-old woman from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

She grew up watching recordings of the performances and developed a passion for dancing through her mother’s Ecuadorian dance company. She dreamed of one day coming to Utah to dance on the Conference Center stage.

Wearing a white blouse and blue skirt with a brimmed hat on Saturday evening, Vera Rodriguez smiled and waved her yellow handkerchief as she bounced and moved to the music of the Ecuadorian song “Por Eso Te Quiero, Cuenca” (“That’s Why I Love You, Cuenca,” a scenic city in Ecuador).

Martha Alejandra Vera Rodriguez and other performers dance during a dress rehearsal.

Martha Alejandra Vera Rodriguez and other performers dance during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones” in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

After a few unsuccessful attempts, Vera Rodriguez was finally able to come to Utah to study English last year. She practiced dancing for several months to prepare to audition for “Luz de las Naciones.” Tears began to flow as she described her long journey to this moment, the difficulties and why it meant so much. She expressed love and appreciation for her Heavenly Father, her family and many “marvelous” friends for their unwavering support along the way.

“This is the first time they have included a number from Ecuador. It’s special for me to dance for Ecuador because that’s where I am from and all my family and friends will be able to see me,” she said in Spanish. “But it’s not just about me, it’s special for all of us. We have come together and feel like family in this performance. I don’t have the words to express how I have felt each day and in every rehearsal.”

Soloist Alex Melecio’s involvement with “Luz de las Naciones” goes back to 2007. The native of Mexico was joined in this year’s performance by his children, 14-year-old twins David and Cami, who played the cello and viola in the orchestra.

Soloist Alex Melecio sings during a dress rehearsal for the annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones.”

Soloist Alex Melecio sings during a dress rehearsal for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual celebration of Latin American culture “Luz de las Naciones” in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Melecio sang four songs this year, including one from Disney’s “Encanto” and another in a Mexican mariachi outfit. He loved the high-energy music and how it brought people from different cultures together, even on a deeper, spiritual level.

“The purpose of the event, the why behind it, and the fact that you can be a part of such a great powerful cause, there’s something special about it. You can feel it, it’s palpable,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

“Luz de las Naciones” will be available for on-demand viewing on the broadcast page of ChurchofJesusChrist.org in English, Portuguese and Spanish, as well as the Church’s Spanish YouTube channel beginning Nov. 19.

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed