Gem State Roundup

Celebration of life services scheduled for Idaho Latino activist, J.J. Saldaña

By: - September 28, 2023 12:53 pm
.J. Saldaña (center) poses for a picture with some of the 2023 interns through the Voces Internship of Idaho program

J.J. Saldaña (center) poses for a picture with some of the 2023 interns through the Voces Internship of Idaho program. Saldaña worked for nearly 24 years for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. (Courtesy of Irene Ruiz)

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A celebration of life will take place for longtime Idaho Latino advocate J.J. Saldaña, who died Friday at the age of 49.

The family of Saldaña invites the community to come together from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Boise State University’s Simplot Ballroom in the Student Union Building.

“His family and friends are eager to turn their grief into action and celebration of a life dedicated to serving others, especially Latino youth,” a press release announcing the services said.

‘A relentless advocate’: Idaho officials mourn death of longtime Latino activist J.J. Saldaña

Saldaña worked for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs for nearly 24 years and was instrumental in planning its annual Hispanic Youth Leadership Summit, where scholarships totaling millions of dollars have been given away to Latino and Hispanic students in Idaho since 2005.

He also served as the lead organizer for Idaho’s Hispanic Heritage Month and worked with the governor’s office, as well as many Idaho cities and universities, to establish a proclamation for Idaho’s Hispanic Heritage Month each year. He served on numerous other boards and community advisory councils during his lifetime.

His legacy in the Gem State as an advocate is incomparable, said Rebecca De León, longtime friend and co-host of the award-winning podcast, The Latino Card.

“There’s not a Latino community in this state he didn’t touch,” she said in the release. “His absence is devastating, but we want to honor his many contributions to the state and the city he loved dearly.”

Speakers at the celebration will include Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, Director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs Margie Gonzalez, Artistic Director and founder of the Hispanic Folkloric Dancers of Idaho Norma Pintar, and members of his family. Several dignitaries will also have pre-recorded messages for Saldaña’s family.

Light snacks will be provided, and cultural performances are scheduled at the ceremony. Attendees should dress fabulously, as Saldaña often did. Capes are encouraged.

A zoom link to the services is available upon request.

If Idahoans would like to make a donation in Saldaña’s honor, they will be directed to the Voces Internship of Idaho. The program directly supports young Latinos who want to pursue journalism. Contributions can be sent via Venmo or by check at the celebration.

“Saldaña’s family would like to extend a special thank you to Boise State University, one of his alma maters,” the press release said. “Boise State donated the Simplot Ballroom and coffee, tea, and water for the event. They also wish to thank the countless business owners, community leaders, and artists who have all volunteered their services and donations. The family is overwhelmed with awe and gratitude for the way the communities Saldaña loved so much are returning the favor.”

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Christina Lords
Christina Lords

Christina Lords is the editor-in-chief of the Idaho Capital Sun and has been a professional journalist covering local and state government since graduating from the University of Idaho in 2009. A Pocatello native, Lords is a fifth-generation Idahoan who served as a reporter at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and the Post Register in Idaho Falls and served as assistant editor for the Idaho Press in Nampa. She also led the Idaho Statesman in Boise for two years before turning to nonprofit journalism.