Idaho Pioneer Celebrated On Dia De Los Muertos

Nov 2, 2012

Ana Maria Schachtell at the gravestone of Jesus Urquides. The Idaho pioneer's gravesite will be covered with real and paper flowers as part of the Dia De Los Muertos celebration.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Today is the Day of the Dead, the Mexican festival celebrating the souls of dead relatives and friends. In Boise, a unique gathering will honor the life of one little known Idaho pioneer.

Jesus Urquides was a Mexican-American mule packer in the late 1800's. Ana Maria Schachtell is a member of the Friends of Jesus Urquides, a group dedicated to telling the history this mule packer and entrepreneur. She has visited his grave every year for Dia De Los Muertos.  

“Jesus Urquides is a great figure, a great historical figure. And it’s an honor for us – Latinos, Mexican-Americans, Hispanics – to have such [a] great role model.”

He spread his business throughout the Northwest, during a time when mule packing was essential for the mining economy. He settled in Boise, establishing 25 houses at the corner of Main and Broadway. The community was known as the Spanish Village.

Schachtell relays the story of Urquides and his mules making a dangerous trek to remote Silver City during a winter storm in 1875. The town had run out of supplies and was facing the danger of starvation.

“Here comes Jesus Urquides with about 40 mules, loaded with goods. And [he] filled the shelves of the general store. He was well liked in the community; he was loved in the community.”

Urquides lived to the age of 95, dying in 1928.

Tonight the spirit of Jesus Urquides comes to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos. Dancers, story tellers and musicians will gather at 4 p.m. at the Pioneer Cemetery in Boise. Traditional Day of the Dead paper flowers and food will be laid at his gravestone. Everyone is welcome at the celebration where the living and the dead commune.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio