“Lamanite Generation Tours Latin America,” Ensign, Sept. 1983, 78–79
Lamanite to Lamanite—that was the medium for the message of peace and brotherhood that Brigham Young University’s Lamanite Generation carried to South America during a six-week tour in May and June.
From Lima, Peru, to Mexico City, from Ecuador to Bolivia to Brazil, local Latter-day Saint organizations recorded a dramatic boost in interest and attendance levels whenever and wherever the group performed.
The Lamanite Generation consists of talented young Native Americans, Latin Americans, and Polynesians who perform traditional and modern arrangements of music and dance native to their cultures.
Although the ensemble has performed extensively throughout North America and around the world since its founding in 1971, artistic director Janie Thompson was particularly excited about this tour.
“Our students felt they were coming home to the lands of their forefathers,” she explained. “In every case, they felt they were welcomed back, and they expressed those feelings many, many times during the tour.”
In return, the students gave of themselves freely, despite difficulties. For example, the group presented a full, vigorous performance in Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas for a crowd of nearly 20,000 Peruvians. Their vigorous workout in the oxygen-thin air at the city’s high altitude caused several cast members to collapse. They quickly recovered, however, and the show continued. “We were later told that some 200 to 250 inactive members came to church the next day as a result of that show,” said tour director Halvor Clegg, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at BYU.
A fireside in Cuzco was equally successful. “There were some 350 people there, and rather than the show they expected, they received a spiritual feast that was even more powerful.” The next month, the two missionary zones in Cuzco performed a record total of seventy-one baptisms. Many of the new converts were attracted to the Church by the Lamanite Generation’s performances there.
The young student-performers frequently arrived at sacrament meetings throughout the tour to discover they were the meeting. “There were no national boundaries, there were no different peoples, there were no different languages. We were one people, speaking through the Spirit,” recalls Brother Clegg.
Opportunities to meet with local and national government officials were frequent, and the young Latter-day Saints took advantage of every occasion to share the gospel.
In Lima, the ensemble was formally introduced to Peruvian President Fernando Belaunde Terry, to whom they presented a number of gifts, including a Spanish translation of the book Spencer W. Kimball. “The President’s first words were, ‘Oh, thank you. How is he?’ “said Brother Clegg. “It needn’t be said that we were touched by this caring, sensitive man.” President Kimball and the Peruvian president have been acquainted for several years.
Following a performance at the coliseum in La Paz, cast member Mario Paz Soldan spent some time with Bolivian First Lady Teresa Ormachea de Siles Zuazo explaining the meaning of the term Lamanite and telling her about the Book of Mormon.
In Quito, Ecuador, First Lady Margarita Perea de Hurtado and her guests witnessed a benefit performance by the Lamanite Generation for a national children’s relief fund. Later, the first lady hosted the performers at a reception in the presidential palace.
The good impressions made by the ensemble outlasted the tour itself. Ecuador’s minister of health, Dr. Luis Sarrazin, who personally hosted the group, sent an imposing wood sculpture entitled The Family to BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland as a “thank-you” and a tribute to the Lamanite Generation’s good works in his country. The large sculpture, by noted Ecuadoran artist Alcides Montesdeoca, was delivered to BYU by Dr. Fidel Endara, vice-minister of health, with a message from Dr. Sarrazin commenting on the “unforgettable experience” of the group’s visit. Dr. Endara came to the United States for meetings of the World Health Organization; while in Utah, he and his wife visited their two daughters, who are attending BYU.