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Beloved ‘translatina’ activist remembered
Jovana Luna, outreach coordinator for El/La, passed away on Aug. 16, 2015. Photo via El/La’s Facebook page
Jovana Luna, outreach coordinator for El/La, passed away on Aug. 16, 2015. Photo via El/La’s Facebook page

Jovana Luna, long-time Mission resident and transgender rights advocate died unexpectedly on Sunday, Aug. 16. She was 39. Her cause of death is unknown as of press time. Luna was a vital figure in creating and expanding the Mission-based translatina organization, El/La.

Born on May 5, 1976 in Leon, Guanajuato, Luna arrived in the Bay Area in the early 2000s. She was supported in coming to California by many close friends, some of whom have known her most of their lives.

Once arriving in San Francisco, Luna became involved with the translatina community. She was described by many as a humble leader, who always gave whatever she had to others. She played a vital role in bringing the community together in order to support San Francisco’s Violence Prevention Act of 2013. She supported others in any way she could, whether it was lending a listening ear or a hug.

A close friend, who goes by the alias “Gato,” had known Luna since childhood and described her as a playful person, who was extremely empathetic and wanted to help others around her. They met when they were both in elementary school and became fast friends. Their friendship continued to strengthen through the years, and Gato remembers the many times Luna supported him as a friend.

Betsy Bernardino remembers a time in which Luna even attended asylum cases with El/La members, to support and advocate for their needs. She was also known for rallying the community and organizing events at the El/La headquarters at 16th and Mission streets. Luna was particularly fond of karaoke.

Juan Alberto met Luna when she had just arrived in San Francisco. He says that everyone was drawn to her.

“She was a leader for the trans and gay community. She brought people together in order to build a community and in turn the group, [El/La] began to grow,” Alberto said. “She gave all her love to everyone; she gave herself selflessly to love and be loved.”

In 2014, El/La’s digital mural, “Mujeres Divinas y Poderosas,” was displayed on the billboard outside Galería de la Raza. Galería Executive Director Ani Rivera remembers Luna being very active in the conversation of the mural, and favoring conceptual art.

“She was just so lively,” Rivera said. “For me, she was the face of El/La. she held a very dear space there…it’s been very hard.”

Many others have voiced similar sentiments. Luna was described by many as a passionate woman of values who radiated confidence and genuine love. Luna was deeply respected and adored in the translatina community and her loss is a significant and devastating one.

A memorial fund for has been set up for Jovana Luna. To learn more, please visit:

Story by: Mayra Lopez