Origins

Marta Baltodano

Photo by Jon Rou

Marta Baltodano’s path brought her from war-torn Nicaragua, where she worked on human rights, Los Angeles, where she now teaches graduate students in the LMU School of Education.

THE PATH

1958: Managua, Nicaragua
Born in Nicaragua, Baltodano earns a bachelor’s and a law degree at the Universidad Centroamericana and works as a human rights lawyer in Managua for several organizations, including Justicia Y Paz, the Catholic Church Commission on Human Rights.

April 1991: Athens, Ohio
Baltodano comes to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar and begins intensive language studies in English at Ohio University. Her transition to U.S. life was not without struggle. “People were nice and warm, but it was a cultural shock.”

September 1991: Los Angeles
Arriving at UCLA, Baltodano begins her Fulbright studies for an M.A. in Latin American studies. Los Angeles drew her because “its Latin culture made me feel like I was at home.”

September 2000: Westchester
Hired at LMU, Baltodano was invited to help plan the SOE Ed.D. program. With her background in Jesuit education, she came to LMU with clear expectations: “a very mission-oriented, rigorous, critically minded education,” she says.

When Marta Baltodano, now a professor in urban education in the School of Education, came to LMU in 2000, she brought a deep exposure to Jesuit education in Nicaragua with her. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a J.D. at the Jesuit-founded Universidad Centroamericana (University of Central America). She had conversations with then-UCA rector Amando López, S.J., who was one of the six Jesuits murdered by the military in San Salvador, El Salvador, in November 1989. After the overthrow of the dictator Gen. Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979 by the Sandinista movement, Baltodano spent 13 years working on human rights in her native country after the revolution.

In the 1980s, Central America was a political crucible. “The whole region was in conflict,” Baltodano says. As her work took its toll, she found herself drawn increasingly to academia’s intellectual life and earning a Ph.D. But after the war, there was no graduate school in Nicaragua. Baltodano enrolled at the Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California, earning a Ph.D. and discovering the joy of teaching graduate students in particular. When offered the opportunity to teach at LMU in 2000, she saw her vocation becoming real.

An emigrant from her homeland, Baltodano also was seeking roots. “I was trying to replicate that place called home,” she recalls. During her studies, she returned to Nicaragua for short trips. But when flying back to L.A. and seeing the city’s lights, she recalls, “I felt a sense of safety and security. … It was clear to me that this was my new home.”