Meet the Team: Leo Martinez

Name: Leo Martinez

Title: Project Manager

Main responsibilities: I coordinate and provide training and technical assistance for the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Initiative and the Limited English Proficiency project.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina and I’ve lived in Atlanta, Georgia for almost 20 years now.

Where do you feel most at home?

I believe that’s a tricky question for anyone who is a first generation immigrant who has had as many years of acculturation as I have. I feel at home in Atlanta, GA and I feel at home when I visit Buenos Aires. I have strong ties to both countries but I feel at home whenever I feel a sense of community. That could happen, for example, working in the community here in Atlanta or reconnecting with my former students in Buenos Aires like I did in my last trip. I feel enriched by the experiences I’ve had because of being bicultural.

What inspires you, professionally and personally?

I get inspired by stories, by people’s stories. I get inspired to work and fight for my communities by listening to their stories, by finding things in common, by constantly learning from people. I have been a teacher and still consider myself one. I teach but most of all, I learn. I can’t make a distinction between professional and personal lives here because I get inspired by the same things.

In terms of your work for Esperanza United, what are your areas of expertise or what areas are particularly interesting to you?

I have worked for many years in the Latin@, LGBTQ and immigrant communities, and I bring the lessons learned from connecting with folks in community. I kind of hate using the word “expertise” because it sounds as if I “have arrived” — that I have all the knowledge there is to have about a certain topic and from a culturally humble standpoint; that’s impossible. However, I would love to share some of the lessons learned along my professional journey in matters related to cultural competence and responsiveness, community organizing, working with ethnically and racially diverse communities, intersectionality, LGBTQ issues, community coordinated response, batterers intervention programs, etc.

Share one thing you have learned, big or small, doing your work.

Building relationships is hard, but it’s the only way to bridge gaps between communities.

Who inspires you?

My mom has inspired me and keeps inspiring me. She was a force for our family growing up, as a survivor of domestic violence who put my brother and I through school and provided the best environment for us to grow, despite all the many challenges (poverty, abuse, etc.) we faced. And she still is an inspiration to me today, fighting cancer and showing strength even at times when it would be so hard for anyone to do so.

What do you do to relax, de-stress or recharge your batteries?

I used to bowl in a league for over 10 years but I’ve had a few injuries in the last couple of years that has kept me from bowling but I’m hoping to get well enough soon to resume. But in the meantime, my other way to work my stress out is by singing. I have been a singer since I was little and I enjoy all types of music.

Why have you chosen to do this kind of work?

There is a personal connection, growing up as a youth witness of domestic violence and not having anyone help my family, I feel for those families out there going through similar experiences. People need to know that they have options.

The fact that it affects a lot of communities has allowed me to use my personal and professional experience to help those in the LGBTQ, Latin@ and immigrant communities, among others.

What is your favorite food?

“Milanesas” with pretty much anything: mashed potatoes, fries, beans and rice, etc.

What is your favorite book?

Growing up, I read many books in Spanish, and out of all of those, my favorite was always “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez. As for books written in English that I have read over the years, one of my favorites is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.