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Martinez (Roberto) Papers
MSS 0652  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biography
  • Related Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Roberto Martinez Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0652
    Physical Description: 3 Linear feet (8 archives boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1969-2009
    Abstract: Papers of Roberto Martinez, Chicano rights activist, political organizer, and director of the American Friends Service Committee's (AFSC) San Diego chapter from 1983 to 2001. The collection documents Martinez's career as an activist, locally in San Diego, as well as on a national level. The majority of the papers are Martinez's subject files on immigration and border issues. The papers also contain Martinez's writings and speeches, and documents relating to his work with AFSC and the Coalition for Law and Justice. Collection contains documents in both Spanish and English.


    Roberto Martinez was born on January 21, 1937, in San Diego, California. He attended San Diego High School and earned a commercial art degree at San Diego City College.
    His first position as an activist was with the Roman Catholic Diocese, then later with the Chicano Federation. In 1983 he was chosen to head the U.S.-Mexico Border Program for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker human rights organization. He remained with the AFSC as the San Diego program's director for 18 years until his retirement in 2001.
    In the mid-1990s, Martinez collaborated with other organizations to fight Operation Gatekeeper, the federal program that forced illegal immigrant traffic into dangerous mountain and desert terrains that resulted in hundreds of migrant deaths each year. In 2000, Martinez helped start the Ecumenical Migrant Outreach Project after five Latino men were beaten by San Diego high school students. Throughout his career, he fought law enforcement abuses against the Latino and immigrant communities by documenting alleged abuses, filing complaints, and serving on committees like the Border Patrol Civilian Accountability Committee.
    Martinez was the recipient of many local, national and international honors, including the Human Rights Watch Award in 1992, the first awarded to a U.S. citizen, and the Ohtli Award, one of Mexico's highest honors.
    Roberto Martinez died in 2009.

    Related Materials

    American Friends Service Committee - United States-Mexico Border Program Records (MSS 644). Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Roberto Martinez Papers include correspondence with other human rights activists, notes and documents relating to speeches he gave and events he attended, and subject files containing clippings, notes, and correspondence on topics like farm workers, immigration, law enforcement abuses, human rights at the U.S./Mexico border, militarization, Operation Gatekeeper, and other border-related issues.
    The papers are arranged in two series: 1) PERSONAL FILES and 2) SUBJECT FILES.
    The PERSONAL FILES series is arranged alphabetically by file title and contains correspondence, documents on Martinez's professional activities, and biographical information.
    Correspondence is from various members of the immigrant rights community about community news, planned events, and opportunities for collaboration. There is also a series of letters Martinez wrote to San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Chief David Bejarano addressing police violence, including Martinez's letter of resignation from the SDPD Latino Advisory Committee. Also included are death threats written to Martinez from various white supremacist groups.
    Documents relating to Martinez's work with the AFSC and the Coalition for Law and Justice include letters requesting information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, newspaper clippings, and some correspondence. Also included are Martinez's typed speeches, flyers advertising events and event programs, and several testimonies he gave to government subcommittees and commissions on immigration and border issues.
    Biographical information includes the 1992 Human Rights Watch Award and two folders of newspaper clippings about or featuring Martinez.
    The SUBJECT FILES series is the bulk of the collection and contains mostly newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, correspondence, and reports. The series is arranged alphabetically using Martinez's own subject headings. There are sizable files on alleged abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol, the San Diego and National City police departments, and the San Diego Sheriff's Department, most dating from the 1980s. Testimonies and police and coroner reports from these files have been restricted.
    The series also contains select issues from smaller human and civil rights publications and newsletters including Crossroads, Voces Unidas, Klan Watch Intelligence Report, and Migrantes.


    Materials located in box 3, folder 8; box 6, folder 7; and box 7, folder 3 are restricted until the year 2085 according to federal and state laws.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 2009.

    Preferred Citation

    Roberto Martinez Papers, MSS 652. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Martinez, Roberto, 1937-2009 -- Archives
    American Friends Service Committee. Mexico-U.S. Border Program -- Archives
    Chicano Federation of San Diego County