Remembering Maria Emilia Martin

A pioneer for radio and humanity, Maria Emilia Martin passed away in early December.

Martin is most celebrated for creating “Latino USA”, the public radio show featuring Latino communities and culture.  After 30 years, the show continues to reach audiences around the country.  She is also known for mentoring countless journalists.

In the 1970’s, when Martin started out, she wasn’t a journalist, but a social worker.  She was living and working in Santa Rosa, CA when she first heard KBBF, the local Latino-owned and operated community radio station.  Martin volunteered, producing a show about women’s health and sexuality.  Many women called into the show, including low-income farm workers.  One night a woman called in after overdosing on pills.  Martin recalled in her memoir, 

“Crossing Borders, Building Bridges: A Journalist’s Heart in Latin America” (2020), that the woman needed help because the hospital treating her didn’t have anyone who could speak her language.  As the New York Times described it, “The idea that public radio could be not just a community resource but also a lifeline was, Ms. Martin wrote, an ‘aha moment’ for her, and she was hooked.” 

Maria changed careers and dedicated her life to journalism and community and public radio.  

The  above photo was taken at the 2023 Grassroots Radio Conference where Maria was one of the opening speakers.  With sorrow and gratitude, we think on her many contributions and gracious heart.  She will be missed.

Above photo: Maria Emilia Martin at the Grassroots Radio Conference in Charleston, WV in 2023. Courtesy of Damon Cater of WTSQ radio.