Rita Martinez

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Rita Martinez
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Born(1955-10-28)October 28, 1955
DiedDecember 10, 2020(2020-12-10) (aged 65)
CitizenshipUnited States of America

Rita Martinez (October 28, 1955 – December 10, 2020)[1] was a Pueblo, Colorado Chicano activist. She is most well-known for her 30-year long effort to abolish the observance of Columbus Day in Colorado. In 2020 her work succeeded when Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill abolishing Columbus Day[2] and creating Frances Xavier Cabrini.[3] From June to November 2020 she was leading weekly protests to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus form Mesa Junction in Pueblo, Colorado.[4][5]

She met her late husband Jose Esteban Ortega, at La Cucaracha, the newspaper she worked for in the late 70s. Together Martinez and Esteban had three children, daughter Neva Martinez Ortega, and sons Tomas and Vicente Martinez Ortega.[4]

Her life as an activist began in the 1970s when she worked for La Cucaracha where she was a reporter and photographer. One of the first issues she took up was police brutality and accountability. With her husband she helped organize Pueblo's Cinco de Mayo festivities in Pueblo for at least 45 years. In 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas, she took part in protests against the Columbus Day parade, held in Denver, which has since been disbanded. Martinez, Esteban and Freddy "Freak" Trujillo founded the Colorado Chicano Movement archives at Colorado State University–Pueblo.[4]

Martinez did not live to see the statue of Columbus removed from Mesa Junction. She died on December 10, 2020, from Coronavirus disease 2019, after 13 days in Parkview Medical Center.[6]


  1. "Rita Martinez Obituary (1955 - 2020) - The Pueblo Chieftain". www.legacy.com. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  2. "Remembering Colorado Activist Rita Martinez". TPR. 2021-01-05. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  3. Beedie, Dan (2020-02-25). "House passes Colorado bill to abolish Columbus Day, replace with new Italian tradition". KRDO. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mestas, Anthony A. "Well-known Pueblo Chicana activist Rita Martinez remembered as fighter for equality, justice". Pueblo Chieftain. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  5. "Remembering Pueblo activist, Rita J. Martinez". www.msn.com. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  6. "Remembering Rita Martinez - a voice for Pueblo's Indigenous community". KRDO. 2020-12-16. Retrieved 2021-01-28.

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