Radio journalist Maria Emilia Martin, a former NPR colleague who created the radio show Latino 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.



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