Ada María Isasi-Díaz often quipped that she “was born a feminist on Thanksgiving weekend in 1975,” when she attended the first Women’s Ordination Conference in Detroit. At the time of her unexpected death in May at age 69, after fighting an aggressive cancer, she was acknowledged as the full-fledged mother of mujerista theology and recognized around the world for her critical contribution in shaping a feminist liberation theology for Latinas in the United States.
Ada was “a pioneer,” Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether told Sojourners. “She gave us a vision of justice and integrity for Latina women in the U.S. and the world that was inspiring”; her work is “an integral part of feminist theological thought.”
Ada María Isasi-Díaz was born in Cuba in 1943, the third of six sisters and two brothers. Her father worked in the sugar cane mills, and her mother nourished in Ada a love of Catholic religious practices and the importance of staying in the struggle (la lucha) for what one believes. Her family fled Cuba after years of civil war, and in 1960, at age 17, Ada arrived in the U.S. as a political refugee. Soon she joined the Ursuline sisters and, in 1967, was sent to Lima, Peru, as a missionary.
“I lived there for three years,” Ada wrote. “This experience marked me for life ... It was there that the poor taught me the gospel message of justice. It was there that I learned to respect and admire the religious understandings and practices of the poor and the oppressed and the importance of their everyday struggles, of lo cotidiano.”
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