Elizabeth Betita Martinez – USA

Linked with Where was the Color in Seattle?

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Elizabeth “Betita” Martínez (born 1925) is a Chicana feminist and a long-time community organizer, activistauthor, and educator. She has written numerous books and articles on different topics relating to social movements in the Americas. Her best-known work is the bilingual 500 years of Chicano History in Pictures, which later formed the basis for the educational video Viva la Causa! 500 Years of Chicano History. Her work has been hailed by Angela Y. Davis as comprising one of the most important living histories of progressive activism in the contemporary era … [Martínez is] inimitable … irrepressible … indefatigable … (full text).

Her Bio also on South End Press.

… In 1997 she co-founded and currently directs the Institute for MultiRacial Justice in San Francisco, a resource center that aims “aims to strengthen the struggle against white supremacy by serving as a resource center to help build alliances among peoples of color and combat divisions”. Most recently, Betita was named as one of the 1000 women from 150 countries (40 from the U.S.) who have been nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. (full text).

She says: “If being a writer implies sensitivity to the complex reality of human existence, then how can one not seek to end the conditions that suffocate all but a tiny number of those who walk this earth?”(1000peacewomen).

Listen the videos: Elizabeth Betita Martinez, 2.59 min, Sept. 24, 2008; and: Elizabeth Betita Martinez’ Message About Efren Paredes, Jr., 1.33 min, April 23, 2008.


Elizabeth Betita Martinez – USA

She works for War Times-Tiempo de Guerras; for the Institute for Multi-Racial Justice (named on abc otv online); and for the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

Towards Social Justice: Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez and the Institute for MultiRacial Justice, by Chris Crass, December 24, 2004.

Find her and her publications on allBookstore; on amazon; on wikipedia /selected publications; on Google Video-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

Betita Martinez responded to one of my questions at her Detroit book signing by saying, ¡Vive la mujer radical! (Long live the radical women!). I need to summon her unwavering purpose to keep my energy up! (on a book without cover).

Help for Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez, 10th March 2005.

If ever there has been a chapter of the U.S. left with deep cultural roots in every sense, it is the movimiento of New Mexico. The roots include social relations, economic traditions, political forms, artistic expression, and language—everything that defines peoplehood. They are Native American, Spanish, and Mexican mestizo (mixed) and they go back centuries. Migrant workers of the last 150 years have played a crucial part, but “immigrant” does not describe the totality of those roots … (full text A View from New Mexico: Recollections of the Movimiento Left, by Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez).

… Morales got the idea for the film while interviewing Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez. Perhaps best known for her book “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures,” Martinez already was politically active in the early 1950s when her daughter was born … (full text, 23 Oct 2008).

… Second, the vital critique of white privilege in the Global Justice movement that was initiated by Elizabeth Betita Martinez in her essay “Where Was the Color in Seattle”.  That essay and others that followed it made race and power burning issues throughout the movement … (full text).

… She’s perhaps best known as the author of the classic 500 Years of Chicano History which remains a profusely illustrated testament to our people’s storied resistance throughout centuries of oppression. Betita, as she prefers to be called, was in town last week, however, to speak to students and people in the community about her latest book 500 Years of Chicana Women’s History. (Rutgers Press).

Starting where her classic text left off, Betita’s newest book is a bilingual historical exhumation of the long obscured stories of Chicana women in resistance. All too often faced with a male dominated triumvirate chorizo-fest image of the Chicano Movement, Betita’s book is a breath of fresh air and further more, an absolute necessity! … (full text).

She writes: White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege. I. What does it mean to say it is a system? The most common mistake people make when they talk about racism is to think it is a collection of prejudices and individual acts of discrimination.  They do not see that it is a system, a web of interlocking, reinforcing institutions:  economic, military, legal, educational, religious, and cultural.  As a system, racism affects every aspect of life in a country. By not seeing that racism is systemic (part of a system), people often personalize or individualize racist acts.  For example, they will reduce racist police behavior to “a few bad apples” who need to be removed, rather than seeing it exists in police departments all over the country and is basic to the society … (full text, February 1998).


You find ALL the following text on one site, the project for 1000peacewomen:

SELECTED WRITINGS on 1000 Peacewomen:

  • De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1998.
  • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures/ 500 Anos del Pueblo Chicano, Albuquerque, N. M.: Southwest Organizing Project, Second Edition 1991. (Forms the basis of the video, Viva La Causa! that she co-directed)
  • The Art of Rini Templeton: Where There is Life and Struggle / El Arte de Rini Templeton: Donde Hay Vida y Lucha. U.S. editor. Seattle: Real Comet Press and Mexico D.F. Centro de Documentación Gráfica Rini Templeton, 1989.
  • Guatemala: Tyranny on Trial, co-editor, San Francisco: Synthesis Publications, 1984.
  • Viva La Raza: The Struggle of the Mexican American People, co-author. New York: Doubleday. 1974. Won Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.
  • The Youngest Revolution: A Personal Report on Cuba, author. New York: Dial Press, 1969.
  • Letters from Mississippi, Editor, New York: McGraw Hill, 1965 (re-issued in 2002).

(And): Innumerable articles including in The Nation, Monthly Review, Z Magazine, ColorLines, CrossRoads, Signs, The Progressive, Rethinking Schools, Ms. Magazine, Razateca, Social Justice


Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez has influenced the thinking and the actions of generations of scholars and community activists. She provides intellectual understanding, leadership and direction to struggles against racism, sexism, anti immigrant bias, and in support of social justice and peace. Betita is a master connector, bringing communities and individuals together and insisting that we recognize the profound connection between all humanity.

“De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century”, the most recent book by Elizabeth Martinez, is dedicated to “La juventud, the youth, and their revolutionary vision” reflecting the passion and life-long commitment of Betita (as she is known by friends.)

Betita meets all of the criteria for a true peace woman: She actively utilizes non-violent responses to social conditions; her work is long-term with lasting impact; she leads by example, and provides an extraordinary role model. She has worked for peace for over 50 years; her work is accountable to the people based on respect, tolerance and love of humanity. Both in word and in deed she engages with people of all backgrounds.

A Chicana rainmaker extraordinaire, Betita is widely recognized as a builder, a fighter, and a scholar. For youth and women in particular, she has been a generous mentor and exceptional role model in the struggle for peace with justice.

Born in Washington, D.C. to Manuel Guillermo and Ruth Phillips Martinez, (professor and high school teacher respectively of Spanish), Betita grew up often facing racism and isolation in her all-white neighborhood and schools. At home she heard enthusiastic stories of the Mexican Revolution and Zapata along with criticism of U.S. imperialism from her Mexican immigrant father. Early on she was thus inspired with the spirit of resistance and hope for a better world.

Formerly married to novelist Hans Koning, Betita has one daughter, Tessa, an actress and co-founder of the Latina Theater Lab.

The first Latina and possibly the first student of color to graduate from Swarthmore College, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in History and Literature in 1946 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws in May 2000.

Drawing from her rich and varied experiences, Betita has created numerous works documenting the history of struggle and resistance by people of color in the United States and Latin America, movements for racial justice, women’s liberation, against war and colonial domination and for social transformation. These include six books (two of them bilingual), two videos, many, many articles, and the editorship of several publications and newsletters beginning as Books and Arts editor at The Nation, the first Chicana to hold this position.

Betita sought her first job out of college at the United Nations in hopes of helping end the horrors of war. As a researcher in the Secretariat (1948-53), she learned much about the effects of colonialism on Africans and Pacific Islanders.

With the explosion of the Black civil rights movement in the early 1960s, Betita threw herself into anti-racist work and joined the Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As an editor at Simon & Schuster, she sponsored and edited The Movement (text by Lorraine Hansberry), a photo history providing a visual understanding of the civil rights movement that raised funds for SNCC. In 1964 she edited Letters from Mississippi, a collection of letters written by civil rights volunteers that historic summer (re-issued in 2002).

As one of two Chicanas who served full-time in SNCC, she coordinated its New York office and traveled to Mississippi and Alabama. She worked closely with SNCC Chair Stokely Carmichael and Executive Secretary James Forman assisting them on their writings and other projects.

An internationalist from her youth, Betita traveled to Cuba in 1959 and witnessed the profound transformations occurring shortly after the Revolution. She returned in 1967, representing SNCC at a huge gathering of Latin American revolutionaries, and several times thereafter. She traveled to the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, and later China to witness the changes occurring as people struggled to transform their societies.

Betita’s path then shifted from New York to New Mexico, where she became active in the land grant movement of Chicanas/os. She co-founded and edited the bilingual movement newspaper El Grito del Norte (1968-73). She later co-founded the Chicano Communications Center, a barrio-based organizing and educational project that included guest speaker forums, a political theater, and various publications starting with two bilingual histories in comic-book format about Latin American revolutionary heroes.

Determined to tell the untold story of Chicano repression and resistance, Betita edited 500 Years of Chicano History (originally 450 Years), a bilingual pictorial volume and later co-produced a corresponding documentary Viva La Causa! based on the book.

Today, after over 30 years, teachers still recount how this book changed the lives of young Chicanos /as by providing a liberating knowledge and self-respect that counteract the racism they experience in the educational system and elsewhere. Her work has inspired pride and activism amongst Chicano /as through the articulation of the strong heritage of resistance to oppression and their rich culture and history.

Before leaving New York, Betita joined New York Radical Women in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement. In New Mexico she continued working to advance a feminist perspective and to develop young women’s abilities and leadership. After moving to the Bay Area in 1976, she joined a socialist organization, the Democratic Workers Party, notable for having mostly women leaders.

She later joined the Women of Color Resource Center as a Board member and in 2001 went with its delegation to the Non-Governmental Organization session at the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. They aimed to ensure that in addressing problems of racism, gender issues would be included.

Betita has taught Ethnic and Women’s Studies for years and has guest lectured at hundreds of universities and colleges in the United States. In 1982 she was the first Chicana on the ballot for Governor of California, running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

In 1997, she brought together her experience in the Black and Latino freedom movements by co-founding the Institute for Multi-Racial Justice (IMRJ), a resource center to help build alliances among peoples of color and combat divisions, while recognizing the central role of women in this process. The co-founder was Phil Hutchings, last Chair of SNCC and a long-time activist. She is the Institute’s Director and edits its newsletter, Shades of Power.

Since fall 2001, Betita has been active in anti-war organizing and as an associate editor of the national bi-lingual newspaper, War Times /Tiempo de Guerras.

This continues her work in the UN, organizing against the war in Vietnam, and traveling to North Vietnam in a peace delegation in 1970. The first Chicana to do so, she returned to the United States to work on the historic August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War in Los Angeles and related activities elsewhere.

Betita has contributed to the remarkable growth of California’s youth movement in recent years, especially among Latinos and other youth of color.

Serving as a mentor for numerous organizations, Betita has participated in demonstrations, gone to jail and supported hunger strikes for ethnic studies and opposition to the criminalization of youth. These organizations include Youth Together, OLIN, School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), the Chicano Moratorium Committee, Standing Together to Build a Revolutionary Movement (STORM) and March4Education – all of these just in the last 15 years!

Her work with immigrant rights organizations such as the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Day Labor Program has had a similar effect. The immigrant rights movement has been growing rapidly, all over the country, and Betita’s support through her writings, speaking and on-the-street participation has been notable. This has had sustained and long-range impact.

Several generations of activists, students and ordinary people have benefited very directly from her scholarship and activism, analysis of global and U.S. society, race and gender relations, and her vision of a just future. An author, activist, and teacher, Betita has functioned as a true “citizen of the world”, providing many with hope, understanding and the strength to carry on just by her example.

Betita has been a true pioneer in movement-building by raising consciousness about problems of racism and sexism in society and progressive organizations. Young woman activists, for example, have come far in the last 30 years thanks to her encouragement and example; they are no longer reduced to stereotypical roles.

In a similar way, she has combatted racism within the anti-war movement of recent years. With a single magazine article “Where was the color in Seattle?” after the World Trade Organization (WTO) protest in 2000, she stirred discussion and sincere self-analysis among anti-war whites across the U.S. Numerous anti-war groups established specific programs to address the problem.

Another change she has helped to create is greater awareness of the need for, and possibility of, long-range alliances (not just coalitions) between peoples of color. While recognizing the particularities and centrality of the Black experience, she has worked to unite all peoples of color by recognizing the commonalities in experience to combat competitiveness. The programs of the Institute for MultiRacial Justice, including its film and video festivals, forums, workshops and popular newsletter Shades of Power, have all been efforts to build alliances.

Today, with a view to the nation’s changing demographics, she has encouraged people of color across the country to think more about the need for alliance building and to combat divide-and-conquer tendencies. In 2003 the Institute for MultiRacial Justice circulated her “Open Letter to our African American Sisters and Brothers,” an expression of solidarity signed by 45 Latino scholars, authors and community activists who reject any division that might result from their being recognized as the nation’s largest community of color. African Americans all over the country responded with appreciation and hope.

Betita has also helped develop and participated directly in numerous anti-racist training projects for white activists, including for example, the “Challenging White Supremacy” workshops that have been functioning for ten years. These provide a model for activists throughout the country. Through the Institute for MultiRacial Justice, Betita also pioneered in holding workshops for organizers of color about how to deal with their internalized racism and prejudice between groups.

Over the years, working-class people of all ages and colors have been enlightened by her analysis of the social world both past and present and by the way she articulates what needs to be done in the future. She expresses and lives notions of unity and solidarity and leads by example. Many have taken her vision and understanding to heart to advance the development of existing organizations or to create new ones. She has repeatedly helped young people, especially those of color, to put their ideas on paper effectively in books, articles, leaflets, letters and press releases. This contribution in itself has served to change the course of many people’s lives as finding the means to voice one’s own experience has a liberating capacity. Betita has truly been a “leader of leaders” and a “teacher of teachers.”

Many community and campus organizations that have taken more active stance against racism or reached out to build alliances around a common problem after she spoke with them. She has brought together groups facing similar problems, sometimes leading to the creation of new formations.

Betita is exceptionally skilled at drawing out different constituencies and helping them articulate their own perspectives while simultaneously functioning as a bridge to help them understand the perspectives of others. She engages audiences and communities, local, national, academic and political with clarity, directness and deep analysis. She is modest, non-sectarian and listens closely to the nuances in meaning that people express. She boldly draws out the relationships, connections, and significance of what people say, providing intellectual analysis with clear implications for practical application.

Elizabeth Betita has received numerous honors and awards. These include, for example, the Women’s Enews Honor for “21 Leaders for the 21st Century,” May 2002; Scholar of the Year 2000, National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies; La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco, 1999, Lifetime Achievement Award and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) 1995 National Conference, Lifetime Achievement Award.

Now in her late 70s, Betita continues to be known for working around the clock to advance the worldwide struggle for peace with justice, and the human rights and dignity of poor and working-class people. Her tenacity and exuberance serve as an inspiration to several generations of people who join in believing that a better world is possible.

Elizabeth Betita is an extraordinary movement builder whose contributions, both intellectual and practical, have advanced humanity’s efforts to make another world possible. She exemplifies all of the characteristics of a true “peace woman.” Our society is a better place because of the dignity, integrity, clarity and wisdom that she brings to all she does.


Los Veteranos: An Oral History of San Francisco’s Mission District Activistas, by R.M. Arrieta, Mar 21, 2006;

The Google download-books:

Voices of a People’s History of the United States, By Howard Zinn, Anthony Arnove, on Elizabeth Betita Martinez on page 589, 2004, 665 pages;

Globalize Liberation, By David E. Kyvig, David Solnit, with the chapter Racism: the US Creation Myth and its Premise Keepers, by Elizabeth Betita Martinez, 2003, 487 pages;

on wikipedia:

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