The Daily Aztec

Obituary: Ernesto Martin Barrera

Courtesy of the family of Ernesto Martin Barrera.

Courtesy of the family of Ernesto Martin Barrera.

Courtesy of the family of Ernesto Martin Barrera.

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Ernesto Martin Barrera

December 12, 1935 – February 6, 2018

Dr. Ernesto Martin Barrera, a former chair of the San Diego State Spanish Department, died in the early morning of Feb. 6, 2018 from complications of a stroke and heart disease. He was 82 years old and is survived by his wife, Marion, of 55 years; his three sons, Ernesto, Richard and Douglas; and four grandchildren.

He came to America from Colombia in 1961 as part of a tour of student leaders. His tour took him to the White House for a chance to meet President John F. Kennedy, and eventually to Los Angeles, where he met his future wife, Marion Holmes.

Barrera graduated from the University of Cartagena Law School, and earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in Spanish and Portuguese literature and theater from the University of Southern California. He taught at UC Los Angeles before being hired by SDSU President Malcolm Love, and he worked at SDSU from August 1969 to September 1997.

A renowned scholar, his works include a book on Colombian playwright Luis Enrique Osorio titled “Realidad y fantasía en el drama social de Luis Enrique Osorio.” He served on the University Senate for two decades and was chair of the SDSU Spanish Department for over a decade in the 1980s and early 1990s. During his tenure as chairman of the department, he organized the first of several internationally regarded literature symposiums which brought noted authors and scholars to the campus, including Everett Hesse, Carlos Fuentes, Elea Poniatowska and Octavio Paz, among others.

He never missed a single day of work in 30 years at SDSU.  His family and friends noted that beyond anything else, he loved teaching more than any other aspect of his career. He taught all levels from introductory Spanish courses to mentoring graduate students seeking their own master’s and doctoral degrees. He never missed an opportunity to teach during winter and summer sessions.

His favorite author was Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but one of his favorite passages came from Alexis de Tocquevilles’ book “Democracy In America.”

“From the time when the exercise of the intellect became the source of strength and of wealth, it is impossible not to consider every addition to science, every fresh truth, and every new idea as a germ of power placed within the reach of the people …knowledge, and literature became an arsenal where the poorest and the weakest could always find weapons to their hand.”

He will always be remembered as a man who brought joy and spirit to those around him. His family hopes everyone who misses him recalls him with a smile. That is what they know he would want.

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