Anna Luisa Acuña Matus, 81, born on August 17, 1940, passed into the light on January 15, 2022.

She was born in Nogales, Arizona to Mercedes Rivera Matus and Manuel Cruz Matus. Anna was raised in the Lochiel area and attended the Lochiel school, Little Red Schoolhouse and the Tubac School. Anna was an avid reader and excelled academically from a young age. She represented Santa Cruz County in the Arizona Spelling Bee. 

She graduated from Nogales High School in 1959 and married her high school sweetheart Ignacio Acuña and they had four children. After 25 years of marriage, they divorced but remained close friends, looking after one another until Ignacio’s death in 2020.

Anna worked at the Santa Cruz County Health Department, and Nogales USD as a career education counselor. In 1980 Anna co-founded a grassroots organization, which was named Living Is For Everyone (LIFE) to bring education, attention and assistance to those from Ambos Nogales affected by cancer. In 1982, she was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune inflammatory disease, and she took up her LIFE work with even more intensity. She lobbied and spoke before Congress for the transparency of disease-causing toxic dumping by corporations into the local water tables. Her efforts brought awareness of health and environmental issues of this area to a national and international level. 

Anna taught Spanish classes to U.S. Customs inspectors and patrol officers with the federal agency. At the time, she was one of only three such instructors with the service. 

Anna served with the Foreign Service in Mexico City where she was assigned to the American Embassy as an administrative officer. She attended many high-level meetings as an interpreter for U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, John Gavin. During this time, Anna lived through the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. 

Upon her retirement from U.S. Customs, Anna opened a retail store in Tubac, AZ, and hosted a live talk show Radio KLCR from the Americana Hotel interviewing guests on relevant topics to Ambos Nogales. The name of the show was “La Cucaracha” (cockroach) because it just wouldn’t go away!

Later in life, Anna served as the Children’s Librarian at the Nogales City Library, sharing her passion for storytelling and culture with local children and their families. As to her work at the children’s library, she couldn’t be happier. Life changed and she felt great hope for the future because of the children.

Anna lived a celebrated life as an advocate for women, the environment, arts and the underrepresented. Some of her recognitions were Woman of the Year awards from both the American Business Women’s Assn. and the Zonta Club as well as for her work with the U.S. Senate Hispanic Issues Task Force and the Bi-National Border Health Task Force. In 2013 she was inducted into the Nogales Hall of Fame.

Anna is preceded in death by her parents and sister, Mercedes Matus Pesqueira. She is survived by her brother Manuel “Manny” Matus and her brother William “Yemo” Y. Matus, her children, Patricia Barraza Preciado (Luis); Ignacio Jr. (Toni); Robert and David (Rachel); grandchildren Giovana, Andrés, Amanda, Paloma, Zachary, Alyssa, Alejandra and Anais and five great-grandchildren.

A Mass will be held on March 12, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church in Nogales, AZ with burial to follow at the Patagonia Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation to a children’s library in her name.