Chico Martinez died suddenly on February 18. He was honored with a gathering of hundreds of friends and family on February 25 in his home town of Trinidad, Colorado. Old pals from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, showed up to pay their respects for this activist, cultural warrior, role model, leader. In the audience were musicians, politicos, bureaucrats, teachers, religious leaders, farmers and ranchers, students, viejitas and babies - gente. I watched the crowd as Chico's photos flashed across the front of the Christian Fellowship Church that served as the setting for his services. Their expressions of love and respect were genuine, so real you could feel the emotion swarm around all of us in that church. This guy literally touched the souls of all those he met.
The Pueblo Chieftain ran an obituary that you can access at this link and where you can get a small idea about the shock of his death and the effect the man had on his community.
I met Chico at Colorado State University back when some of us (the Chicano students) had been trying to organize our own brand of the revolution. He had transferred to the Fort Collins university from Southern Colorado State College in Pueblo and he had an immediate impact on all of us. The guy was filled with energy, music, commitment - life. He took the student movement from the sterile halls of the academy into the vibrant northern Colorado Chicano community where he established himself, published a newsletter, took on the local causes, started the first of his three families. He became Chico "El Perico" Martinez. I always thought that Chico was what the Movement was supposed to be. He was a hard act to follow, a tough image to live up to.
He never showed, to me at least, the burn-out or weariness that so many of us know. They say he had a massive heart attack. He had filled that heart with love and struggle - there's only so much any heart can take.
Que descanse en paz.