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Pioneering Latina public radio journalist Maria Martin dies at 72

Maria Emilia Martin created the radio show <a href="https://www.latinousa.org/"><em>Latino USA</em></a>.
Conocimientos Press
Maria Emilia Martin created the radio show Latino USA.

Updated December 2, 2023 at 8:41 PM ET

Radio journalist Maria Emilia Martin, a former NPR colleague who created the radio showLatino USA, has died in Austin, Texas. She was 72 years old, and died after a recent operation.

For nearly half a century, Martin brought the voices of Latin Americans and Latinos in this country to public radio. She reported on politics, violence and resilience of indigenous communities in Central America. Most recently, she filed reports from Guatemala.

Martin was born in Mexico City and grew up in California. She got her start at KBBF in Santa Rosa, Calif., the first Latino-owned community radio station in the U.S. Later, she was an editor on NPR's national show Latin File, before becoming the network's first and only Latin American affairs editor on the national desk.

She left NPR in 1993 to create the English-language radio program Latino USA. Thirty years later, Martin told host Maria Hinojosa her vision for the show was "to reflect the diversity of the Latino community in all of its beauty, and in all of its pain."

Martin also trained generations of journalists in Guatemala, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. She founded a nonprofit called the GraciasVida Center for Media to improve public radio coverage of Central America.

In her memoir Crossing Borders, Building Bridges: A Journalist's Heart in Latin America, she wrote about overcoming racism and sexism in her work devoted to training other Latina journalists. She won many awards, including for her documentary series Despues de las Guerras: Central America After the Wars, was a Fulbright fellow, and was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 2, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story said Maria Martin was 71 years old. She was 72.
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.