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July 26, 2013

Sotomayor story continues…

I read your article about the passing of Dr. Marta Sotomayor. I would like to fill in a few gaps by adding information supporting my late aunt’s accomplishments and contributions to the national Chicano and Latino community.

Dr. Sotomayor was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley; obtained an MSS degree from Smith College and in 1973 received her Ph.D. from the University of Denver/Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). In 1970 Marta was a Fulbright Scholar recipient, she did her field work in Bogata, Columbia studying the higher education system.

Marta authored, co-authored and edited several manuscripts. Her writings were not descriptions of events or of other people’s work, but rather were scholarly research studies and thoughtful analysis and innovation contributing to the body of knowledge of the Chicano experience.

Your article mentioned Dr. Sotomayor as Director of the Office of Special Populations in the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA) of the U.S. Public Health Service (1981-1994). In that capacity Marta played a key role, within the agency, coordinating the resettlement of 125,000 Cuban refugees during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift.

Prior to her work with the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), Marta served as Chair of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Executive Board during the NCLR transition from a predominantly male Board to a half male/half female Board. It was during the tumultuous transitional period when Henry Santiestevan left and Raul Yzaguirre was hired as National Director. During her tenure as Chair of the Board, Marta saw NCLR grow from an organizational force for social movement into a solid institution. Having had one of the longest terms on the NCLR Board, Marta decided it was time to move on to do other things and resigned. She went on to become involved with the NHCOA. Her contributions to NCLR are cited in the NCLR archives.

At the invitation of President Clinton, Marta was a member of the White House Conference on Aging Policy Board in 1996-97, ensuring that the issues of elderly Latinos and their families would be included in their discussions.

In 1980 Marta was a recipient of the Day Garrett Award from the Smith College School for Social Work and in 2009 she was presented with the University of Denver/GSSW’s first Notable Scholar Award. The award honors doctoral graduates whose social work scholarship and leadership represent excellence and include the generation of innovation and evidence-based practices, and advancement of social justice. In presenting the award to Dr. Sotomayor, Dean James Herbert Williams said, “Your leadership in advocating for vulnerable, oppressed people throughout your career is remarkable.” He noted that Marta wrote the school’s first doctoral dissertation on Hispanic elderly. He also cited the impact of a book she later co-authored, “Elderly Latinos: Issues and Solutions for the 21st Century”.

Marta is listed as a 1999 MANA Lasting Legacies in Las Primeras and her contributions to the national Chicano and Latino community are cited in “Notable Hispanic American Women” (Book 1 – Page 391).

Above all Marta loved people and cherished her familia. She is survived by her son, daughter-in-law, 2 grandsons, 2 sisters and several nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, August 10, 2013 at the Rock Church in Point Loma.

Ana Maria Puente

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