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Luz Alvarez Martinez interviewed by Loretta J. Ross, December 6-7, 2004

 File — Box: 31
Link to transcript of Luz Alvarez Martinez interview
Link to transcript of Luz Alvarez Martinez interview
Link to video
Link to video

Scope and Contents

In this oral history, Martinez describes her childhood immersed in the Catholic culture of Mexican immigrants in California. She describes an emotionally difficult marriage. She traces her decades of political work and details current programs of the National Latina Health Organization. Martinez recounts moments of cooperation and tension between women of color and mainstream women's groups as well as among women of color. Her story underscores the centrality of Self-Help to her life and work. (Transcript 98pp).

Dates of Materials

  • December 6-7, 2004


Conditions Governing Web Access

At the direction of the narrator, the recording of this interview may only be placed on the web if access is restricted to the Smith College community. Please consult with special collections staff at to inquire about the existence of or access to digital copies. The interviewer and narrator for this interview have agreed that the transcript may be placed on the web.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is open for research use without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The interviewer and narrator have transferred copyright of this interview to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

Luz Alvarez Martinez (b. 1943) grew up one of twelve children of Mexican immigrant parents in San Leandro, California, in the Bay Area. Her father was a carpenter, and the family spent summers in farmworker camps harvesting crops. Luz graduated from St. Elizabeth's (Catholic) High School in 1960. She married in 1964 and had four sons, combining childrearing with community support for farmworker organizing. She divorced in 1981.

In the late 1970s, Martinez began college study to become a nurse midwife. She became involved in the Berkeley Women's Health Collective, serving on the board and helping to establish its women of color clinic. Inspired by the health activism of African American women, especially the 1983 Spelman conference, Martinez co-founded the National Latina Health Organization in 1986, the first national organization by and for Latinas working on health issues and using the Self-Help framework pioneered by the National Black Women's Health Project. Martinez also came to incorporate indigenous dance and mestiza spirituality into her community organizing. Among women of color she championed lesbian issues, and within mainstream reproductive rights groups she advanced a broad health agenda; she served on the board of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

Martinez was active in early efforts to form and sustain multiracial coalitions among Latina, Native American, Asian Pacific American, and African American women in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, she played a key role in asserting the standing of U.S. women of color as representatives of underdeveloped communities. She participated in the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995 as well. In 1997 she became a co-founder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. In 2005, Martinez retired from the National Latina Health Organization. She is currently president of the Hispanic United Fund.

Language of Materials