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Maria Elena Martinez-Lopez


1966 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Maria Elena Martinez-Lopez Obituary
Historian of colonial Latin America, and professor of history at USC, María Elena Martínez-López, whose scholarship transformed the study of Mexico, died at home in Los Angeles, surrounded by family and close friends on November 16, 2014. She was 47 and had struggled heroically with a rare and aggressive cancer, diagnosed in late May.
María Elena was born on December 2, 1966 in Pascuales, Durango, Mexico, to Nicolás Martínez and Aurelia López. The family moved to Chicago in the 1970's, but returned regularly to their home in Durango, where María Elena excelled at riding horses and where she delighted in the savor of her mother's carne seca. She received her BA from Northwestern University and her MA and PhD in History from the University of Chicago. She began teaching at USC in 2001, and soon fell in love with the hills of Griffith Park and the eclecticism of Los Feliz. She had an enchanting sense of play, which she reserved for those very close to her, especially her nieces and nephews and her treasured Anees, who she called Nisito, the son of her beloved friend Sarah Gualtieri.
She was a pioneer in the field of Latin American history, and was one of the principal organizers of the Tepoztlán Institute, an annual conference in Mexico that fostered transnational scholarship. Her award-winning 2008 book, Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico (Stanford University Press), was ground-breaking. Based on meticulous archival research, she dramatically reinterpreted the historical foundations of race. María Elena was the recipient of several prestigious awards and was scheduled to be a 2015 Stanford University Humanities Fellow.
María Elena encompassed academic brilliance with serene grace, beauty and compassion. Her friends will remember sumptuous dinners in her adored garden, accompanied by her favorite rioja, which were always enlivened by her humor and insights. She was a generous mentor, a supportive colleague, and a giving daughter, sister, aunt and friend. Her loss is profound.
In addition to her mother, she is survived by her brothers Manuel de Jésus (Felicidad), Arturo, Nicolás, and Enrique (Hortencia) and their children.
A private family viewing is planned, with a public funeral service at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale (Church of the Recessional) at 9 am, Friday, November 21 with a USC Memorial to follow at a later date. Details on donations in María Elena's memory will be forthcoming.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 19, 2014
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