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Remembering Rita Martinez – a voice for Pueblo’s Indigenous community

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- On their way to the hospital, Rita Martinez told her daughter she was bargaining with God, hoping to return home and fully recover from COVID-19. Martinez, one of Pueblo's strongest voices for indigenous rights, said she still had work to do on earth.

"She had said she was afraid she wasn't going to leave the hospital," said Neva Martinez Ortega, the daughter of Rita Martinez.

According to her family, Martinez was first brought to Parkview Medical Center due to COVID related symptoms the weekend before Thanksgiving. After a brief stint outside of the hospital, her symptoms worsened.

Martinez was admitted to Parkview a second time. She spent 13 days in the hospital before passing away.

Throughout her life, Rita Martinez championed for rights of the indigenous peoples across the county and especially in Pueblo. Most notably, advocating for the removal of the Christopher Columbus bust on Abriendo Avenue across the street from Rawlings Library. Decades ago, Martinez helped organize some of the first protests against the bust that have reoccurred every Columbus Day for decades.

For the family of Martinez, she was a civil rights activist, a fighter for the indigenous communities, and a caring mother.

"She was the fiercest strongest woman that everyone turned to for leadership," said Martinez Ortega. "But she was also a fun loving person that loved to joke around and enjoy life."

Martinez Ortega says her mother's death will only serve to light the fire for future generations to fight for indigenous causes - including the removal of the Christopher Columbus Bust.

"Her children and all of the people she has touched throughout the community which are hundreds if not more throughout the city or throughout the state will continue her legacy, and will continue her work," said Martinez Ortega. "She has planted seeds in all of us and we are all blooming."

Her family held a candlelight vigil for Rita on Saturday, which was the first of many memorials.

On Friday, the sons and daughter of Rita Martinez will be holding a public funeral procession to her final resting spot.

For more information on the procession and how to participate, you can find that information on the Facebook page - El Movimiento Sigue (The Movement Continues).

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.


1 Comment

  1. Ok before you put her on a pedestal remember she was one of the ones without a mask…truly sad she organized protests like this, defied all orders the governor and mayor gave and unfortunately paid with her life… Rest in Peace Rita.

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