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Fronteras: San Antonians mentored by journalist María Martin say her legacy will ‘live beyond’

Pioneering journalist María Martin died Dec 2, 2023 at the age of 72.

Martin was known as an outspoken advocate for Latino representation in journalism and championed to bring diverse stories to airwaves that spanned outside the U.S. and into Central America.

She co-founded Latino USA in 1992, and before her death, lived in and reported on Guatemala, while training journalists at the GraciasVida Center for Media.

She also shared her skills locally with a group from San Antonio’s Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

The group’s first session encouraged participants to write personal essays. The second was still underway when Martin died.

The Esperanza's director, Graciela Sánchez, says Martin’s radio training — and her classes at the Esperanza — encouraged people to share stories that would otherwise never be heard.

“TV doesn’t exist for us (on San Antonio’s West Side) unless it’s crimes and traffic accidents,” she said. “I think that it was genius of María that it wasn’t just her own voice that needed to be out there, but to share those seeds, the granito de arena.

Debra Ponce, a climate justice organizer with the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, and a participant in Martin’s classes, spoke about her impact.

“I feel like I was given a gift,” she said. “I think of her as a teacher, lifelong. I guess that’s what she really was: a teacher.”

Fronteras also spoke with Angel Cantú, a former staff member with the Esperanza, and Imane Sabila, the public relations coordinator at the Esperanza.

Participants of the training sessions at the Esperaza produced a program called “San Antonio Voices” hosted by Martin for Radio Esperanza, a low-powered community radio station dedicated to providing social justice and community expression.

Hear both episodes below:

San Antonio Voices, Program 1
San Antonio Voices, Program 2

Listen to the first part of Fronteras’ remembrance of Martin here.

A long-time friend of Martin wrote a calavera — a type of light-hearted poem — to honor his beloved colleague.


Mira que bonitas flores
mira como brilla el sol
tan coquetas de colores
what a beautiful glow

En un día como hoy
we lost a la Mariquita
remember her, tan bonita
era puro corazón

Simon, mis vatos locos
por la ostia del Tejón
La Calaca le echó el ojo
and took away her microphone

Sana, sana colita de rana
los ángeles le cantaban
but la Muerta tan ingrata
las cobijas le jalaban

No se aguiten, no es el fin
now there's a new generation
of young people asking questions
gracias a María Martin

Fue en un Thanksgiving season
cuando a la vida dijo adiós
but she left a thousand reasons
for us to be thankful for

Como buena jornalera
muchas semillas sembraba
her truth now corre como agua
sin importar las fronteras

She lit thousands of minds
por los caminos de Aztlan
from the streets of the bay area
to las faldas del volcán

Blanca palomita stop flying
párate en aquel nopal
dinos donde María is watching
con sus Bette Davis eyes

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1