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Every day, health officials, politicians and journalists pour over updated numbers meant to shed light on the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah. But each statistic represents a person — including each number in the death count. In the past nine months, hundreds of Utahns have lost their lives due to the disease. As 2020 comes to a close, KUER is remembering the lives of a few of them.

Utah Pacific Islander Community Mourns The Loss Of ‘Unapologetic’ Activist Margarita Satini

Margarita Satini
Aimee Finster
Margarita Satini, an organizer in Utah’s Pacific Islander community, died earlier this week due to COVID-19 complications. She was 50-years-old.

Unapologetic. Passionate. A force to be reckoned with.

That’s how people described community organizer and activist Margarita Satini, who died Tuesday from COVID-19 complications. She was just 50-years-old.

Around a hundred people gathered at the state Capitol to honor her legacy at a memorial Wednesday night, while wearing masks and social distancing.

Among the many causes she was involved in, Satini founded the Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition, worked for the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club and pushed for her community to make their voices heard by taking the 2020 Census.

The memorial centered voices from Utah’s Pacific Islander community including Ofa Matagi. She said her relationship with Satini jump started her civic engagement and led her to run for the state Legislature.

“One thing I know for certain that Margarita would want me to share, as she lived her life this way,” Matagi said, “[is] do not be passive agents to the change that is needed for our communities as a whole. Be engaged.”

Satini’s brother, John, said one of the things that mattered to her most was the truth — which he said could be hard to take sometimes.

“But with Margarita, you learn that truth is the fire that forges character,” John Satini said. “That’s what makes you who you are. The strength that gives you the liberation to become someone who you’re supposed to be.”

On Tuesday, news of Satini’s death broke like a wave over Utah’s Pacific Islander community, activists and others who have been positively impacted by her work and presence.

The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club released a statement about Satini, calling her an “irreplaceable force for justice.”

Meanwhile, the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition said on Facebook Satini’s passing “leaves an enormous hole in the heart of our community, but her tireless example and leadership will live on.” They asked that people vote and wear a mask in her honor.

Satini had been leading COVID-19 outreach efforts in the Pacific Islander community. In Utah, Pacific Islanders make up just about 3% of the state's cases but have the highest case rate among all demographics.

Gov. Gary Herbert shared his condolences with her family, saying he was saddened to hear she died from coronavirus complications.

But commenters pushed back on the tweet, saying a lack of leadership at the state level contributed to Satini’s passing.

At the memorial, Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, said she was sad and angry.

“Too many of us, our loved ones, have been taken by this disease,” Kwan said. “But it’s not about centering our pain, because Margarita didn’t center her own pain. She wouldn’t want us to center our pain. She would want us to center each other and our communities and our families.”

Satini was the sole provider for her husband, four children and four grandchildren. A GoFundMe account has been set up to support her family.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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