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Remembering pioneering Latina public radio journalist Maria Martin


A beloved leader in the world of journalism has died.


MARIA MARTIN: For NPR News, I'm Maria Martin.

RASCOE: If you've been a listener to NPR in the last couple of decades, including to this very program, you've probably heard her voice. Maria Emilia Martin was the founder of the nationally syndicated radio program "Latino USA." She was also a teacher and mentor to many young journalists in the U.S. and Latin America. Martin began working in journalism in the 1970s. In the early 1990s, when she was an editor at NPR, Austin member station KUT approached her with an idea - to create a weekly audio journal of news and culture of interest to Latinos. That became "Latino USA."


RASCOE: Martin recently recalled what it was like to produce those first episodes.


MARTIN: I remember working hundreds of hours. I remember sleeping on the floor of the office and the studio because we wanted to make sure that it sounded great.

RASCOE: Others tried to create similar programs in the past, but success was tough to come by. Martin said that in order for such a program to succeed, Latinos had to be in charge. She wanted the show to both express the diversity of the Latino community and unify its members.


MARTIN: Imagine the sounds of Calle Ocho and the Bronx and the fields of Fresno. These stories were crying to be told. But also the need was for Latinos to perhaps have more solidarity with each other.

RASCOE: Martin left "Latino USA" 20 years ago. She then founded the GraciasVida Center for Media in Guatemala, where she trained independent journalists. On a Facebook post last month, Martin announced she was in a hospital in Austin awaiting surgery - send prayers and healing. So many of her friends did. Maria Emilia Martin was 72.

(SOUNDBITE OF PACO PEREZ'S "LUNA DE XELAJU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.