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Longtime Utah Latino activist Frank Cordova dies at 69

Published October 8, 2013 5:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Longtime Utah community activist Frank Cordova died Monday after a yearlong battle with cancer, a close friend and associate confirmed Tuesday.

He was 69, according to an Oct. 11 published obituary.

Cordova — former president of Centro Cívico Mexicano in Salt Lake City, Utah's oldest nonprofit Hispanic organization, and a prominent advocate for causes affecting the lives of Mexican-Americans and other Latinos — died at home Monday evening surrounded by his family, said fellow activist Robert "Archie" Archuleta.

"He will be sorely missed, not only in the political field, where he was very active, but also in the area of philanthropy," said Archuleta, who worked alongside Cordova for more than two decades.

Cordova recently served as executive director of Utah Coalition of La Raza, a nonpartisan civil-rights organization based in Salt Lake City.

The veteran organizer also was instrumental in voter-registration drives, held several high-profile positions in government on behalf of the Latino community and lobbied legislators on critical issues, including immigration, driver licensing and in-state tuition.

Archuleta said Cordova had remained at home since returning about 10 days ago from a trip to Phoenix for medical treatment, welcoming a steady stream of visits from friends, neighbors and community representatives, many of whom Cordova has inspired to activism through the years.

Cordova was born in Colorado and made a living as a child picking fruits and vegetables there — and in Utah and Idaho — before he joined the U.S. Army at age 17. He lived briefly in Alaska and studied political science and psychology at the University of Utah.

He was married with five children.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams called him "a tireless advocate for the Utah Hispanic community."

"Throughout his life he fought for prosperity, opportunity and social justice on their behalf," McAdams said. "That will be his legacy, and I know he has inspired younger generations to step forward and carry on his crusade."

Cordova served on former County Mayor Peter Corroon's 15-member Council on Diversity Affairs. He was honored in March as a recipient of the César Chávez Peace & Justice Award for his work in nonprofit groups, issue advocacy and grass-roots organizing.

He has also been instrumental in efforts to raise money to renovate Centro Cívico Mexicano, 155 S. 600 West, Salt Lake City.

Archuleta said the community plans to hold a memorial service for Cordova at Centro Cívico in the near future.