2014 MAKERS
12:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Martha Hill

Hispanics are working everywhere (now), partly because they are bilingual. The problem is they are still doing the service industry jobs, landscaping, construction jobs. Skill jobs. We still haven’t seen much of Hispanics running for office or at a management level.

La Paz, Bolivia native Martha Hill grew up with one brother and four sisters in a household forged from traditional roles. But from an early age, her mother said, “‘You girls, you have to go to college. You have to get educated, you won’t have to depend on your husbands like me,’” Hill said. “I saw her frustration.”

She was finishing a degree in economics in Santo Domingo when she met her husband, a diplomat. Eventually she landed a job with the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, where she had her first experience as a “link.” She was the community liaison, helping diplomats find housing, organizing trips and writing a newsletter. When Hill’s husband was transferred to Guatemala, she enrolled in a university and earned a journalism degree.

She had visited the United States twice as an exchange student and moved here permanently – to Cape Coral – in 1990, with her husband, soon after his retirement.

Her timing was good. The year before, the Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce had been organized and Hill became involved, starting the first Spanish language publication in Lee County, Que Pasa. She again became a bridge between heritages – this time between American and Latin cultures, as a writer and also as a volunteer in the community, working mainly with migrant workers.

She closed the magazine in 1994 and went to work for The News-Press. She wrote stories and a column about the new cultures coming in to Lee County.

She’s most proud of holding the standard for the first amendment. Spanish speakers were able to express their views with Que Pasa. Now as the link between letter writers and The News-Press, she ensures that Southwest Floridians have a voice on the issues that matter to them. “And that I think, I hope, can be my greatest contribution to this community.”

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