Posted July 31, 2013, 5.45 p.m. ET | Cuban writer, theatre critic, scholar and social activist Inés María Martiatu Terry died on July 3, 2013 in her native city of Havana, Cuba. "She was an ardent advocate of African culture throughout Latin America," says Emmanuel Harris II, professor of Spanish, University of North Carolina-Wilmington and translator of Martiatu Terry's work into English. "In her books she tackled conflictive issues about race, identity, discrimination, and marginalization of women," adds Professor Harris.
Born on February 2, 1942, to a family of black professionals, Martiatu Terry studied music at the Conservatorio Municipal de La Habana and earned a degree in History at the local university. In 1960 she was a student in the Ethnology and Folklore Seminary, founded by the renowned ethnologist and musician Argeliers León. A supporter of the Cuban Revolution, Martiatu Terry would found the Grupo Teatro de Arte Popular, which worked with famed actors and directors such as Tito Junco, Gerardo Fulleda León, and Eugenio Hernández Espinosa.
Her books include various scholarly titles, such as Teatro de Eugenio Hernández (1989); Remolino en las aguas y otras obras de Gerardo Fulleda León (2004); Una pasión compartida: María Antonia (2004); El bello arte de ser. Antología de teatro de Tomás González ( 2005); Bufo y Nación. Interpelaciones desde el presente (2008), all of them by Editorial Letras Cubanas. She also published a collection of short stories, Sobre las olas y otroscuentos/ Over the Waves and Other Stories (Swan Isle Press, Chicago 2008), the anthology Re-Pasar El Puente. Antología de teatro de Ediciones El Puente, and Afrocubana: Historia, pensamiento y prácticas culturales (Editorial Ciencias Sociales, La Habana, 2011, co-edited with Daisy Rubiera). Her work has appeared also in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Guadalupe and Peru.
Among the numerous awards and recognitions she received were the Critics Prize from the journal Tablas; the Short Story Prize in “Women’s Themes” given by the Colegio de México and Casa de las Américas, and Cuba's Recognition of Distinction for National Culture.
“She was the daughter of [the Orisha god] Oshun, and often we would talk about espirtismo and the afterlife," said Martiatu’s longtime confidant and collaborator, Alberto Abreu. "She had a peculiar way to explain the different events of her life, her destiny, history from this perspective, from a knowledge that is 'other.' That’s why now that she has passed, that she’s in the process of converting into one of the great spirits that the (santería priests) babalaos or the oriaté invoke before beginning a ceremony, I’m going to ask Olofi and Olordumare that grant her plenty of light so that her spirit shines on me.”