“For Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, a Black woman of Puerto Rican descent, born and reared in El Barrio, the current rise of a global movement for Black lives and collective liberation aligns with her unwavering vision for a better world. Her steadfast commitment throughout her long career – creating new spaces, opportunities, and possibilities for our communities to see themselves in an empowering light while challenging oppression – is her legacy.
~ Neyda Martinez and Nestor David Pastor, Latino, USA
Marta Moreno Vega was born to Flora Marcano Cruz Moreno and Clemente Moreno in the East Harlem community of the Manhattan borough of New York City in 1942. Her parents were from Puerto Rico; her mother hailed from Caguas and her father was of Loiza. The youngest of three children, Vega recalls in her beautiful memoir, When the Spirits Dance Mambo, the gratitude expressed by her paternal grandmother (abuela) Luisa for the wonderful unexpectedness of Marta’s birth eight years after her sister, Socorro, and nine years after her brother, Alberto.
Marta was reared in the neighborhood known as El Barrio, which was primarily comprised of persons who immigrated from the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic; Cuba and Mexico. Many of the women either were homemakers, like Marta’s mother, or worked outside the home, performing duties in either factories or domestic households. Many of the men performed blue collar labor work. In her memoir, she shared that the men “toiled as janitors, factory workers, doormen, on the docks or as merchant seamen … Others worked as messengers, sold furniture door to door, or hustled as number runners. My own father worked in an auto body shop.”