History of the Martín-Baró Fund

The Ignacio Martín-Baró Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights was founded by friends and colleagues of Ignacio Martín-Baró, many of whom were also psychologists and academics in related areas. Over the years, individuals from a variety of other fields have brought their experience, skills, and interests to enhance the work of the Fund, and we have also been strengthened by the energy and enthusiasm of our student members.

To construct a new person in a new society...

"Whether or not it manifests in individual disorders, the deterioration of social interaction [by war] is in and of itself a serious social disturbance, an erosion of our collective capacity to work and love, to assert our unique identity, to tell our personal and communal story in the history of peoplesÖ For this reason, the challenge is not limited to addressing the destruction and disorders caused by the war. The challenge is to construct a new person in a new society."
-- Ignacio Martín-Baró

Ignacio Martín-Baró

Ignacio Martín-Baró, a social psychologist, was one of the six Jesuits murdered in 1989 at the Central American University in San Salvador. At the time of his death, he was the Vice-Rector of the University, and Director of the University's Center for Public Opinion. Martín-Baró was a renowned scholar who had studied in Europe, the United States, and Latin America; a prolific writer of five books and more than 100 articles; and a gifted speaker. Working and living among the Salvadoran people, he dedicated his life to the cause of human rights, equality, and social justice in El Salvador. Recognizing the devastating impact of U.S. policy toward his adopted country, he visited and spoke before many U.S. organizations, stressing our obligation to speak out against our nation's collusion with the Salvadoran oligarchy and military. He had a profound influence on a wide range of academics, activists, and others in the United States.

Through his advocacy, research, and rehabilitation programs, Martín-Baró worked to heal the individual and collective scars of war and oppression. Shortly before his death, he had made plans to open a polyclinic to serve children and adult survivors of torture and war. In addition to his solidarity with the people of El Salvador, Martín-Baró was also a central figure in efforts to establish an international network of individuals and organizations working on problems of human rights and mental health.

"War implies social polarization, the displacement of groups toward opposite extremes. A critical split is produced in the framework of coexistence, leading to a radical differentiation between 'them' and 'us'ÖPeople, actions and things are no longer valued in and of themselvesÖThus the basis for daily interaction disappears.
"Without doubt, of all the deleterious effects of the war on the mental health of the Salvadoran people, the undermining of social relations is the worst, for our social relations are the scaffolding we rely on to construct ourselves historically both as individuals and as a human community."
-- Ignacio Martín-Baró

Remembering Nacho

View the text of a video presentation created for the Fund's fall fundraising event in 1999 here. It is based on the reminiscences of people from many walks of life whose lives were profoundly affected by Father Ignacio. Some of the video scenes used in the presentation were from the film, A Question of Conscience, by Ilan Ziv, and were made available to us by the courtesy of First Run Features, New York, (800) 488-6652.


Writings for a Liberation Psychology, by Ignacio Martín-Baró, edited by Adrianne Aron and Shawn Corne, Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1994. Available in hardcover and paperback. The most accessible of Martín-Baró's works for English readers, this collection of impassioned essays calls for a psychology which speaks to and for the community as well as the individual, and understands the essential connection between mental health, human rights, and the struggle against injustice. The book also includes a very comprehensive bibliography Martín-Baró's publications, both in Spanish and in English.

Reveals the workings of a mind that was probing and humane, wide-ranging in interests and passionate in concerns, and dedicated with a rare combination of intelligence and heroism to the challenge his work sets forth to "construct a new person in a new society."
-- Noam Chomsky