Elizabeth Martinez – the original voice of the Chicana movement – has died at the age of 95, leaving behind a legacy of influence and empowerment.
As the daughter of a Mexican father and a white American mother, Elizabeth Martinez’s darker skin tone left many puzzled. It was the 1930s, and in her all-white hometown in Maryland, you were either white or not white.
She was often told to ride in the back of the bus with black passengers.
Martínez did not let adversity get in her way, becoming the first Latina student to graduate from Swarthmore College in 1946 where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in History and Literature.
It was Martinez who acknowledged, in her well-known piece “La Chicana”, that Hispanic women suffer from triple oppression: racism, imperialism and sexism.
It was the combination feminism and racism that defined the Chicana movement.
Martinez’s life was filled with advocacy and action, her achievements including the founding the bilingual movement newspaper El Grito del Norte, co-founding and directing the Chicano Communications Center, editing the bilingual pictorial volume ‘500 Years of Chicano History’, producing the video ‘Viva La Causa!’, being named Scholar of the Year 2000 by the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, co-founding the Institute for MultiRacial Justice and being awarded an honorary doctorate in May 2000.
Elizabeth Martinez’s life was spent giving to her people and her community, and she is a role model for us all.