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The SMU conferes an honorary degree to Anita N. Martinez, a pioneering citizen and art leader in Dallas.

Dacus, Texas (SMU) – SMU awarded a PhD in Humane Letters to Dallas longtime leader Anita N. Martinez at the SMU graduation ceremony on May 14.

“This honor was a great achievement for her and our family,” said Martinez’s son, Al Martinez.

In 1969, Martinez became the first Mexican-American woman to be elected to the Dallas City Council, and the first woman to be elected to the Major City Council, but her passion for the community began much earlier. When she was 14, fifth-generation Texas led her first campaign, collecting signatures on the pavement of Pearl Street in the Dallas community known as “Little Mexico.”

She was the first in the family to graduate from high school and attended a course at SMU’s Dallas College, a popular downtown extension program in the 1930s and 1940s.

Later, as a councilor, he led a campaign for a new recreation center in West Dallas, now 96 years old, now named in honor of her and founded the Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic. In addition, her leadership has secured funding for the long-awaited refurbishment of Pike Park in West Dallas.

“She is a collaborator,” said Al Martinez. “As the only woman in the city council, she was able to get other members to work with her to do her best for Dallas. She gave her political power and voice. Used to elevate people who are empty. “

After spending two terms in the Dallas City Council, Martinez chose to improve the community through performing arts and named Anita N. Martinez Ballet Forcorico in 1975 as a way to educate Hispanic youth about the importance of culture. Established. Traditional cultural dances from Mexico, Central America and the Southwestern United States.

As a little girl raised in Dallas’ “Little Mexico,” her son said Anita Martinez took dance and drama classes from her neighbors. She remembered how special she was when her neighbors applauded after she and her friends played on her front porch. Her goal in creating her own ballet folk lorico program was to bring the same confidence to her other children.

“About a year after the students start dancing, they get used to themselves,” said Al Martinez. “They learn that they are important. It’s a game changer for students and their families.

At Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, training and performance reflect history, geography, fitness and culture. The program continues to flourish, offering classes from 3 years old to adults, hosting performance companies and providing educational performance to a young audience seen by more than 1 million school children over the last decade. Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico dancers regularly appear at SMU’s annual homecoming parade.

Anita Martinez’s paper is part of SMU’s De Golyer Library Archives of Women of the Southwest.

The Honorary Degree Committee of the SMU Senate recommends candidates for honor each year. The Senate then votes the candidate and transfers it to the president of the university for review and final approval by the SMU Board. The first honorary degree of SMU was announced in 1918.