Residents from all over Utah County headed into the Provo Recreation Center on Saturday afternoon, but not necessarily to exercise.
These residents came for Centro Hispano’s annual Dia de los Tres Reyes, or Three Kings Day, event. Centro Hispano is a nonprofit which has served the Latino community in Utah County for more than 15 years, and provides services geared towards health and wellness, translation and a low-income taxpayer clinic. According to Abraham Hernandez, executive director of Centro Hispano, Dia de los Tres Reyes is their biggest event each year.
“We usually get about 300 to 400 people from all over Utah County,” he said at Saturday’s event. “It’s our biggest event because it is so culturally relevant. People want to keep that tradition alive and teach their children about their culture.
“Our job at Centro Hispano is to mesh the two cultures. We want them to embrace American traditions while keeping the traditions of their countries alive,” he said.
Hernandez explained that in many parts of Latin America, Dia de los Tres Reyes is celebrated more than Christmas. The day, observed Jan. 6, commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, to the infant Jesus Christ. Traditionally, families celebrate together with Rosca de Reyes, a sweet bread cooked in a circle to represent a king’s crown. They also exchange gifts.
“So traditionally, kids would go to sleep tonight dreaming of what the three kings will bring them,” Hernandez said Saturday.
Centro Hispano’s event, catered to lower income families, honored that tradition. Each participant enjoyed a slice of Rosca de Reyes and got a toy, stuffed animal or clothing item to take home. The event also included dance performances by Viva El Folklore, a local dance group that shares traditional cultural dances.
“That is what I really love about them — the director is from Mexico, but they do dances from all over Latin America. It’s really representative of these kids, who are from all over Latin America as well,” Hernandez explained as he looked around the room.
Brenda Hernandez, a Provo mother of two (not related to Abraham Hernandez), brings her daughters each year to appreciate their culture and background.
“I want them to learn for the dance, the food and for the Latino community,” she said.
Her oldest, 11-year-old Gaby, said the dancing is her favorite part of the event. She also enjoys seeing friends from school, and meeting new ones.
Abraham Hernandez said he is very appreciative of community volunteers and organizations who help Centro Hispano with this event, and Provo for offering the Provo Rec Center space for free.
“It shows that Provo cares about this community,” he said.
Employees from Young Living Essential Oils donated toys in December to the nonprofit, Operation Underground Rescue donated stuffed animals, and other community members donated coats and other items. Hernandez said any leftover toys and items from the event will be donated to other nonprofits in the county.
“It really has become, the community helps the community,” Hernandez said.