I met Maria Martin in the late 1970’s when we were part of a handful of Chicano radio activists. Like many pioneers, she was a visionary who created a space for Raza and women through programming and mentorship in a professional field that rarely accepted minorities. While in the Bay Area in the 1980’s we regularly collaborated on projects and news stories with mutual respect and camaraderie. With her characteristic smile, good nature and professionalism, Maria graciously penetrated both English and Spanish markets covering a wide array of issues and personalities that chronicled who we are as people in the United States.
She was a founder of KBBF in Santa Rosa, California, the first bi-lingual radio station in America as well as the founder of NPR’s Latino USA based in Austin Texas, and the GraciasVida Center for Media based in Antigua Guatemala, among others.
She was a founder and leader in both public and independent media, and media education in Spanish and English– primarily covering issues related to LatinX people in the U.S. and Latin America as well as indigenous people.
For the last ten years, the Center has worked to improve the skills and working situation for rural and indigenous journalists in Guatemala, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, as well as to improve the coverage of Central America on U.S. public radio.
Martin was a tireless reporter and creative producer, dedicated to journalism at its highest level and its broadest reach. She taught journalism in university classrooms, and in small towns from West Virginia to Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, and in Bolivia, where she literally went village to village teaching people how to report and publish about their conditions, passions and concerns. “María” was a leader in both news coverage and culture, as well as religion. In her book, “Crossing Bridges: A Journalist’s Heart in Latin America “, Martin tells her story overcoming the many obstacles of racism and sexism, forging a path for the next generation of independent, and LatinX journalists, especially women. She will be terribly missed by her huge network of fans and friends, on both sides of the border and around the world. For the past 20 years she made her home in her beloved Antiqua, Guatemala with regular trips to Austin and San Antonio, Texas where she recently became affiliated with “The Esperanza, Peace and Justice Center.”
María Martin was the recipient of Fulbrights and several Knight Fellowships, including the John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, and the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Martin has won over two dozen awards for her work covering Latino issues and Latin America. She was especially proud of her recent documentary series, Después de las Guerras: Central America After the Wars. She holds a Master’s degree in journalism from the Ohio State University. In September of 2015, Martin was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
On Saturday December 2nd., Sister Maria Martin left this world after a series of medical complications. We are profoundly grateful to have crossed paths with such a media giant and most beautiful human being.
Descansa en paz mi hermana.