In Memoriam: María Torres-Guzmán

August 30, 2018

CAL is saddened by the passing of María Torres-Guzmán, an advocate, researcher and leader for social justice and education for English learners. 

We are pleased to share with you exerpts from a recent tribute by her AERA Bilingual Education SIG colleagues followed by the full tribute as a downloadable PDF. 

María Torres-Guzmán, una mujer de su tiempo, an activist scholar whose research and teaching addressed social justice issues en su comunidad y en el mundo, focusing on language and cultural freedom, has left us with a rich legacy of stories, writings, articles and books.

Born on March 3 of 1951 in Puerto Rico, el orgullo de Juana Diaz, María was a trailblazer all her life, no se conformó con ser la primera ella misma, the first in the family to gain a higher education, the first Puerto Rican woman to gain tenure at her university, but always opened doors and made sure she brought others along. A prolific story teller of Boriqua/Maori spirit, she incorporated the rich linguistic and cultural traditions of her native Puerto Rico in much of her scholarly work, at a time when this was not fully appreciated, opening new lenses for the study of Latinx and linguistic minorities. María was a scholar who embraced theory to understand culture in novel ways. Often employing Chicana and other feminist theories to promote the use of charlas y testimonies as a legitimate methodology and later in her work referred to the results as luchas exposed. She aimed to empower children and teachers, by reflecting the richness of their work and knowledge by co-creating research studies to examine their complex realities. Later in her life María experimented with other sociocultural theories such as cultural historical activity theory alongside social imagination, and stimulated bodies of research from other scholars in this direction.

María Torres-Guzmán had a long career in higher education starting in 1972 in the Chicano-Boricua Studies Program at Monteith College, Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan). After studying in Puerto Rico and in Michigan, she earned her Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy at Stanford University (California), where she graduated in January, 1983. In the early eighties, she was parent educator specialist at Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) in San Antonio, Texas. In 1986, she was appointed as assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City in the Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education. María remained at Teachers College for the rest of her academic life until she retired as a full professor in 2013. She was the first Puerto Rican woman in Teachers College to receive tenure as well as promotion to full professor. The Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education was shaped by her leadership and her don de gentes, as she made everyone feel welcome, valued, and professionally brave and strong. She was a leader in supporting and mentoring emergent academics through testimonios, or knowledge-sharing, through informal conversations between generations of Latina scholars.

Colleagues and friends around the world are saddened by María’s untimely departure. A departure sprinkled with admiration and love for María since the times when she was a feisty talented graduate student in the Mid-west actively engaged in bringing awareness to the injustices faced by Latina/o. Hers has been a productive and inspiring life and we will draw comfort on the memories. 

Download the PDF to read the full tribute: