Fresno State graduate student Mireyda “Mia” Barraza Martinez, 29, was killed in a car crash as rain drenched the Central Valley.
“It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the sudden passing of graduate student and poet Mireyda Barraza Martinez. She died late [Nov. 20] in a multi-car crash on Highway 99 while visiting family in Porterville,” Fresno State’s masters of fine arts program said on Facebook.
More than $10,500 has been raised in efforts to provide funeral funds for the late Fresno State masters student – the goal is $20,000.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Fresno State in 2014, Barraza Martinez started serving as a teaching associate in the English department and was in the masters of fine arts (MFA) creative writing program at the university. She was going to graduate in May.
Prior to her studies at Fresno State, she attended Fresno City College where she was a reporter for its student-run newspaper, The Rampage.
“She wrote about issues of gender and inequality. She’s really an activist for justice,” said Dr. Dympna Ugwu-Oju, The Rampage’s faculty adviser. “You can see that in the writing that she did.”
When Barraza Martinez told Ugwu-Oju about possibly majoring in creative writing, Ugwu-Oju said, “It all made sense.”
“When we talked about objectivity and not putting yourself in the story, she thought sometimes it was necessary to be part of the story – that people couldn’t separate themselves from those issues just because they were trying to be a journalist,” Ugwu-Oju said.
Barraza Martinez was one of the two poet laureate graduate artists in the Laureate Lab Visual Wordlist Studio in the Henry Madden Library and was able to work with Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
“I would like to call on you all to send poems, any size and style, your heart-words, in memory of Mia Barraza Martinez. One step of compassion is 1,000 miles of peace and healing,” Herrera said on Facebook.
Herrera established “Mireyda’s Remembrance Poetry Wreathe” as a tribute to Barraza Martinez. Poems, photos, artwork and written expressions in honor of Barraza Martinez can be sent to Herrera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ugwu-Oju said Barraza Martinez was talented and knew how to use words.
“She was so young and had so much promise. It’s not the type of news you expect to hear about people who are just starting their life,” Ugwu-Oju said. “And I was aware that she was doing so well at State, and I was just expecting such big things from her.”
A rosary service and viewing will be at Myers Funeral Service, 248 N. E. St. in Porterville on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. and a funeral Mass is scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. at St. Anne’s Parish church followed by interment at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. Donations can be made through YouCaring.
“I think that even though she was so young, she really made an impact. She didn’t wait until she turned 30 or 40. She started very early,” Ugwu-Oju said. “Maybe she sensed that she didn’t have a lot of time, and I’m really happy that I got the chance to know her…and I’m happy that she influenced a lot of people.”