I first met Margarita Satini standing in line, waiting for an Angela Davis lecture to begin. She was buzzing with excitement at the opportunity to be in the presence of such a prestigious activist. In all honesty, I felt the same way about Margarita, having heard so much about her activism and advocacy for our Utah Pacific Islander (PI) community prior to meeting her. She was like no one l had ever met before. Larger than life, a visionary who was both articulate and in-your-face, she was the kind of leader that put her words into action and spoke truth to power.
A champion of the West Side, she was most passionate about social justice and civic engagement. She channeled that passion into founding and directing the Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition (UPICEC). She spearheaded equitable efforts for the 2020 Census to ensure our people were counted and represented. She was acutely aware of the ways that socioeconomic and health disparities intersect for the Pacific Islander community. She put herself on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic to coordinate response services for PI businesses and families, organizing testing events, dispersing community health workers across the valley, and spreading awareness across social media platforms.
She was so involved in the community, oftentimes single handedly planning, mobilizing, or strategizing around any effort that was supportive of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the underserved. She was a master at building relationships and she used that skill as the bedrock of building community. A facilitator of change and a bridge between the powerful and the powerless, no one could carry out the work the way this woman did.
Since Margarita’s passing in October of 2020 the word “unapologetic” has been used frequently to describe her. And she was so unapologetic. Margarita was blunt with her words and fully aware of their impact. Sometimes she intended for them to sting, never with the intent of centering herself, but always with the hope to stimulate change. Unbeknownst to many, however, Margarita had a gentleness and sensitivity about her, one that was reserved for those she held dear, her beloved community, her family and friends, and especially her grandkids.
A public mural of Margarita was erected and dedicated in May in honor of her legacy. The mural overlooks the Og-Woi People’s Orchard and Garden located on the Jordan River trail in Fairpark. It stands as a memorial to her legacy and as a physical representation of her influence on Utah’s advances in diversity and racial equity.
Margarita Satini was a monument of a woman. Her memory exudes mana. She was truly a “Mana Fefine” (Power Woman). Although she is no longer with us, she has left behind a spirit of resistance and of transformation, one that will reverberate within our hearts and our community for generations to come.