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'Luz de las Naciones': A fiesta celebrating family, Latin American culture

There are many ways to celebrate and connect with one’s heritage and ancestors. Some people hold tightly to family photos, journals and diaries. Others treasure and pass along music and dance traditions.

No matter. The essential thing is to always remember those who went before — and to leave a family legacy for those who follow.

That was a guiding message March 3 at this year’s edition of “Luz de las Naciones” (“Light of the Nations”), the Church’s annual Latino musical production celebrating family and culture. The 90-minute program included a variety of traditional dances, songs and musical performances — along with video segments highlighting the joys found in connecting with relatives through family history research.

Thousands gathered at the Conference Center, while legions more watched the colorful event live across the globe online.

“Most of the songs that were performed were songs that I grew up with, so that made it fun,” said Linda Perez of North Salt Lake.

“Luz de las Naciones” has become a popular tradition for Perez and other Latino Latter-day Saints. The production has typically been staged during Christmastime. But this year’s family-focused performance aptly coincided with the RootsTech 2018 family history and technology conference.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, attended Saturday’s event.

Elder Jorge T. Becerra, an Area Seventy, kicked off the show with a historic announcement that doubled as happy news for many seated in the Conference Center: FamilySearch and its partners have added 65 million new Mexican records to its collections. As a result, there are more than 200 million more Mexican names discoverable online.

“Many of you will find that locating your Mexican ancestors has never been easier,” he said, prompting applause.

Veteran Spanish journalist Irene Caso hosted the musical program. She spoke of the gratitude she’s felt discovering the stories of her ancestors — and the joy she’s found passing along family traditions to her own children.

Being a link in a family chain, she said, is about “loving and caring for one another.”

Caso also shared a sacred promise offered by President Russell M. Nelson: “When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves.”

Entitled “My Family, Mi Herencia,” this year’s edition of “Luz de las Naciones” featured many defining elements of Latin American culture: family, music, dance and, yes, even soccer. More than 1,000 performers formed the cast — including a youth and adult choir, dozens of musicians, storytellers and hundreds of dancers.

The cast delivered many of Latin American’s most beloved folk songs, including “Guantanamera,” “De Colores,” and “Cielito Lindo.” Artists also performed a new classic — the song “Remember Me” from the hit Mexican/family-themed flick “Coco.”

Meanwhile, folk dances from Mexico and Central and South America marked the colorful richness of the vast Latino culture. On this night, Mexican mariachi bands blended seamlessly with pan flute music from the Andes.

[email protected] @JNSwensen