José DelValle Carrera, who led the Latin Sounds Orchestra, brought the same intensity to his work in Latino outreach for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and social agencies as he did to his music, his friends and colleagues said.
Carrera, 52, died of brain cancer Sept. 17 at his Maplewood home.
Carrera, who was a music and seminary student in his native Ciudad Bolívar in Venezuela, moved to the Twin Cities to attend college in the mid-1970s.
He earned bachelor's degrees in philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and in psychology from the University of Minnesota. Later, he earned a master's degree in Florida.
After a stint as a business consultant and college teacher in Venezuela, he became the executive director of the Office of Hispanic Affairs for the archdiocese in 1987. He later led the Minnesota Hispanic Education Program in St. Paul.
Jesse Bethke Gomez, president of Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio, or CLUES, said Carrera "had an amazing spirit" and "charisma" on the stage or when forming grassroots initiatives.
"He had this ability to bring people together," said Bethke Gomez.
Bethke Gomez, a timbale player who performed with Carrera in the old Orquesta Sabroson, said he marvels at how Carrera interacted with audiences.
Carrera, a deep tenor and guitar player, would have his audience learn a little Spanish and would leave the bandstand to show dancers salsa moves.
The Rev. Kevin McDonough, pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in St. Paul and chaplain to the Sagrado Corazon Catholic Community in Minneapolis, said "the Salsa King" had "remarkable energy and focus."
"He was that way in his work, in integrating newly arrived immigrants into our church," McDonough said.
Carrera was key in the creation of churches and programs that serve Latino people, such as Sacred Heart Catholic Church in St. Paul and St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Minneapolis.
He started the Latin Sounds Orchestra in the mid-1990s, playing such venues as the Quest in Minneapolis, and the former Amelia's and his own club, the former Paraiso, in St. Paul.
Bryan Rossi of Golden Valley, a pianist with Latin Sounds, said Carrera introduced salsa to a lot of Twin Cities people.
"He had an unyielding passion for music," said Rossi, adding that Latin Sounds won the Minnesota Music Award multiple times.
Since 2000, Carrera was a business consultant on diversity, as well as a musician, said his wife, Annastacia Belladonna de Carrera of Maplewood.
He had been working to reunite Latin Sounds and had been working on deals to perform in Japan and China.
"He wanted it to truly become an ambassador for our culture and community," his wife said.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his mother, Maria DelValle Bocarruido of Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela; sons Jose DelValle of St. Paul, Alejandro of St. Paul and Matías DelValle of Maplewood; a daughter, Undreenikia Stephanice Carrera Cappelen of San Antonio, Texas; sisters Nicolasa and Antonieta, both of Ciudad Bolívar, and brothers Juan Bautista, Armando and Ramon, all of Ciudad Bolívar.
A memorial gathering will be from 2 to 6 p.m. today in his Maplewood home.