Remembering Maggi Popkin

Coletta Youngers/Katya Salazar

Coletta Younger and Katya Salazar each have a piece in the Peruvian monthly journal ideele, published by the Instituto de Defensa Legal in Lima.

Patricia and Janet Valdez

Dear Popkin Family

I was terribly sad to hear of Maggi's death and we write to offer sincere condolences to your family.

We wanted you to know just how much family is all in our thoughts Maggi was loved by everyone who know her.

Patricia says: I had the luck to be able to share with her many moments when I was in US the last year and knew her a little a friend and as a mother. Maggi and Damian were my family during my stay in the U.S. They always guided and adviced me . She told me of her work experience in the different countries of the Americas. I cannot believe that she isn't here with us but she still continues here because she will always be in my heart as I have known her.

If there is anything we can do to help, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Kindest regards

Patricia and Janet Valdez Castro

Lima- Perú.

Carlos Villaverde

Apreciada Katya y demás compañeros de DPLF:

Acabamos de enterarnos de la noticia del fallecimiento de Maggi, que nos ha caído como un rayo. Hemos quedado totalmente apenados y desolados.

De ella, con quien compartimos momentos de tanta calidad humana y solidaridad, podíamos esperar cualquier noticia, menos la muerte.

Ahora, cuando más falta hacen las inteligencias firmes y los corazones sensibles como los de ella, cuando por todas partes brotan las injusticias y muchos hombres y mujeres reclaman derechos y despiertan a la conciencia de su dignidad, ella nos deja físicamente. Nos queda su compromiso y su alegría.

Para Uds. que compartían con ella la responsabilidad del trabajo, y especialmente para su familia, sepan que su pesar es el nuestro. Y para ella, la paz y nuestro agradecimiento por ayudarnos a ser más humanos con su ejemplo.

Carlos Villaverde
Director de Proyectos
Fundación Institucionalidad y Justicia FINJUS
República Dominicana

Linda Garrett

For Maggi

I first met Maggi in Los Angeles in 1984, just months before she – and then I - moved to El Salvador, not knowing of course that we would both spend the next decade of our lives in el pulgarcito del mundo.

Los Angeles was then the center of Central American refugee organizing, solidarity and legal work. We shared our concerns and plans to work in El Salvador. While many of us who went in the early years brought our solidarity, a few skills and a lot of idealism, Maggi, in addition, arrived as a true professional.

Our work in El Salvador took us different ways but our paths and friendships often crossed. The years of violence and death passed, punctuated by social gatherings, birthdays at El Rosal, and hurried encounters at Tutela Legal or CDH or the UCA.

That first year was not easy but somehow we all managed to find moments of relaxation – and even a little craziness. One day in October or November of 1985, Maggi, Jennifer and I talked about going to La Palma under the pretense of visiting the site of the peace talks but in reality because it would be a little adventure and an opportunity to see the artesanía workshops.

So off we went early the next morning on the first bus, hot and crowded, smashed among adults and kids, bags of rice, chickens and more. Our windows wouldn’t open. It was suffocating and we vowed the ride back would be different.

After wandering around La Palma, eating lunch and buying a few artesanías for Christmas presents we caught the return bus and climbed right on top – again surrounded by sundry baskets and bags but in the comfort of the late afternoon breeze. The driver and ayudante were both appalled but the passengers seemed to find a little pleasure at the sight of three grungy gringas atop their bus. We were ordered to dismount at several retenes along the way and soaked by a rain shower or two but made it back to San Salvador without mishap.

Maggi was beloved by her friends and colleagues and will always be remembered for her many accomplishments, her intellect, dedication and commitment to work, friends and family, but right now I prefer the memory of that glorious afternoon, the three of us hanging on to each other, laughing and fearlessly flying down the Troncal del Norte on top of that raggedy old bus, in the midst of the war.

In her New Year’s card Maggi wrote, “Let’s hope 2005 is a better year for the world.”

So far it isn’t.
Maggi will be greatly missed.

Linda Garrett

Susana Villarán

A todos los miembros de la familia de nuestra querida Maggie

Conozco a Maggie desde hace muchos años, he tenido el privilegio de contar con su amistad, de ser testigo de privilegio de su entrega y compromiso con la causa de los derechos y de la justicia en Centro américa, en América Latina.

La partida de Maggie nos sorprende, nos duele y es irreparable. Compartimos su dolor y nos solidarizamos en este momento tan difícil para todos ustedes.

Para quienes somos creyentes, la muerte no es la palabra final. Es la vida de Maggie, sus afectos, su compromiso, sus logros en la búsqueda de la justicia lo que tenemos que celebrar. Dar gracias por el privilegio de haberla conocido y de habernos nutrido con su extraordinaria, dulce y firme personalidad.

Con todo afecto y solidaridad

Susana Villarán

Chris Norton

I met Maggi in El Salvador when we were both trying to get established, she as a human rights advocate and me as a journalist. We both moved into a house in Colonia Centroamerica that Mark Fazllolah had found. It was comfortable, in a quiet middle-class neighborhood, and best of all in easy walking distance of the Hotel Camino Real, the hub of the press in San Salvador. Mark had rented an ancient, and extremely noisy, telex machine from the phone company, which he used to send stories to the Daily Telegraph in London at ungodly hours. Other than that Mark was a sweetheart.

It wasn't an easy time to get Washington to pay attention to human rights abuses. The Reagan Administration has maneuvered an acceptable Notre Dame grad, Napoleon Duarte, into the presidency and was proudly proclaiming the full flowering of democracy in El Salvador. There wasn't much interest in the victims of our democratic allies, the Salvadoran military.

Plus navigating the Byzantine labyrinth of Salvadoran revolutionary politics could be daunting.

There were five revolutionary organizations, most of which had at one time split from another. The groups were theoretically united but in practice anything but. Human rights victims were often targeted by the army because they were suspected of being rebels or their collaborators. But gaining the confidence of one group might mean losing the trust of another, as the Salvadoran left expected gringos to play by the same rules they did. I remember many late nights in our kitchen, with Maggi venting about her frustrations over a glass of Concha y Toro. But she persevered and was gradually perceived by all as a professional and an honest broker. She also leapt into El Salvador without any solid job, having to create her work as she went. Eventually her perseverance also paid off when she was hired by the prestigious and well-respected Jesuit University, UCA, and created a position that allowed her to become of major advocate for human rights. She returned to her office when the UCA reopened following the trauma of army murder of the six Jesuit priests, including the head of the UCA and her direct boss, Father Segundo Montes. She kept reporting human rights abuses and helped provide the backup that allowed the Jesuits to pressure for prosecutions of those directly responsible although those who ordered by killings have never been charged.

Finally, shocked by the strength of the 1989 guerrilla offensive, the Bush One Administration realized the war was unwinnable and allowed serious peace talks that ended the civil war in 1992. Although the role of the Salvadoran military was curtailed by the peace agreement, judicial reform hadn't been as well thought out. Maggi applied her fine intellect to analyzing those problems and distilling lessons for the future.

I left El Salvador in 1991 for northern California and Maggi, later, settled in Washington. We were lucky to have her visit us several times when she was in California and the shock of her death leaves a big hole in our lives.

I'll always remember the time spent in our kitchen in Centroamerica, the breakfasts of french toast and Cafe Listo, Maggi baking chocolate chip cookies to take to the political prisoners in Mariona prison on visiting day, her coy smile as she teased you with a piece of political gossip you wanted and that she would ultimately surrender, Maggi and Jennifer returning from their early morning runs, her dedication to Maria Luz and her sons Eduardo and Juan Carlos, the live garrobo lizard that Maria Luz brought home and which scared me half to death when I walked into it in the living room. I remember the day of the 1986 earthquake, returning to our house to find it undamaged asides from some cracks but with the kitchen floor covered by glass from the jars the earthquake had shaken from the refrigerator. And, I, an earthquake-trained resident of California, went racing outside to shut off the gas, until, I realized that we didn't have any gas lines. We rented small propane tanks to run our stove like everybody else in our neighborhood. That night we all went to Linda, Jennifer and Nancy's house where our dinner in their garage was interrupted every fifteen or twenty minutes as we ran shrieking into the street, spooked by the strong aftershocks.

Ultimately, I'll remember Maggi's fine intellect, her dedication to defending the rights of those usually forgotten and ignored, her love for her son and her family and her loyalty to her friends. May you rest in peace, Maggie. We can be proud to have known you.

Chris Norton

Sandy Coliver

I first met Maggi in law school. She started out one year ahead of me, and then I took off a year after getting involved in the Coalition for a Diversified Faculty (which provoked unpleasant reactions from several at the law school). Maggi was a great role model. I admired her for her Lawyers Guild work and for her sense of purposefulness. I followed her career from a distance thereafter, noting with admiration, and some envy, when she got her job with the National Center for Immigrants Rights, and marveling when she moved to El Salvador.

I began my own career in human rights around that time. I continued to hear about Maggi, and occasionally received her reports from El Salvador.

In 1999, I had my first chance to work with Maggi. I decided to apply for a grant from USAID to produce a guide to judicial independence around the world. I sought out Maggi's help to conceptualize the project and produce the section on Latin America, which was the most important region from which lessons could be drawn, given USAID's history of supporting "justice reform" efforts there, often as part of thinly disguised efforts to justify the giving of large sums of military aid. Maggi's perspective and experience were crucial in ensuring that the guide took a sober look at judicial reform efforts in Latin America to-date. She commissioned chapters from leading experts in 10 countries, worked with the authors so that each chapter addressed the same set of issues, and wrote a chapter that synthesized the experiences, best practices and lessons of the other chapters. The Rule of Law Program at USAID reported that the Guide was one of its most useful publications. Maggi made a significant impact by introducing USAID to several outstanding people with whom USAID had not previously worked. Putting people other than herself in the limelight, and providing insightful criticism to keep projects true to the realities on the ground were hallmarks of Maggi's work.

The second time I had the chance to work with Maggi was starting in 2001 when I became the Executive Director of the Center for Justice & Accountability. Maggi had agreed to serve as an expert witness in our landmark trial against Generals Vides Casanova and Garcia. Her testimony at trial in 2002 helped persuade a jury that the generals, who served as Defense Ministers and also head of the National Guard, bore command responsibility for the torture of our clients from 1979-83. Maggi's testimony - clear, precise, knowledgeable, directly on point- demonstrated why she was such a valuable expert. She was called to testify about the Salvadoran judicial system's handling of human rights abuses. After establishing her credentials at some length, she explained the facts that led to her expert opinion that Salvador's justice system was unable and unwilling to handle claims by victims of human rights abuses during the 1979-83 period, and that responsibility for this failure lay squarely with the generals.

On cross-examination, the generals' defense counsel repeatedly asked Maggi questions about divisions within the military, implying to the jury that the justice system's inability to adjudicate human rights claims against the military could be attributed to infighting within the military, and should not be blamed on actions, policies or practices that the generals could control. Maggi repeatedly declined to answer questions about the military, pointing out that (a) she had not been qualified by counsel to testify on that subject, and (b) any divisions within the military could in no way justify the failure of the National Guard to investigate claims of human rights abuses by members of the security and military forces. After opposing counsel's third or fourth effort to get Maggi to answer questions about the military, she answered with authority and not a little bit of impatience, that she was an expert on the topics about which she knew, and was not going to testify about matters on which she was not an expert. That statement well reflected Maggi's style and expertise, and her great value as an expert: concerning matters to which she devoted herself, she became an expert, and she wouldn't make claims that reached beyond her expertise. Her testimony is attached to this note.

Maggi was a role model, a steadying force when I tried to do too much, a voice of reason when I tried to push our work to do more than it could, a shining example of what one exceptionally talented and dedicated person can accomplish. I miss her tremendously. I am very grateful that Maggi's family members and friends shared stories about her as a girl, a young adult, a mother and an aunt. I now better understand from where she got her strength, warmth and clarity of purpose.

With much love to her family and friends,
Sandy Coliver
Center for Justice & Accountability

Donations in Honor of Maggi

We invite you to make an individual donation in Maggi's memory to the Due Process of Law Foundation to help support the continuation of the work to which she devoted her life.

You may make a general donation to DPLF's work, or contribute to the Spanish translation and publication of Maggi's book, Peace Without Justice. This is something that she was working very hard to accomplish at the time of her passing.

Checks should be made out to the Due Process of Law Foundation. Please indicate "general" or "book" on the memo line and send to:

Due Process of Law Foundation
Maggi Memorial Campaign
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW #510A
Washington, DC 20036

DPLF is a 501(c)(3) organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Carolyn Patty Blum

I met Maggi back in the early 1980s when we were both working on issues affecting Central American refugees in the United States. Maggi was representing alot of individual asylum-seekers and, because of the government's discriminatory policies, was forced to take alot of those cases to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Her appellate work laid the foundation for that court's deepened appreciation of the proper meaning of "refugee" under U.S. law and for the particular human rights catastrophe faced by Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum-seeker. She quietly, conscientiously, and thoroughly did first rate work....But that was Maggi's hallmark her whole career. She did the work. And she did not stand in the limelight. And she made a real difference.

Then, deeply affected by what she heard from those clients, Maggi moved to El Salvador. And her work there was so important and crucial and complementary to the on-going work here around protection of Central Americans in the U.S. And she had the guts to go do it. But it didn't even seem like guts when Maggi did it. It just seemed like her way, the natural way it should happen. That's just where she was meant to be.

My career and Maggi's have overlapped many times over the twenty years since those days. We always asked about each other kids tho I was never privileged to meet hers. But it was a shared concern and care. A few years ago, we worked closely together on the case, Romagoza et. al. v. Garcia and Vides, which has been mentioned by a few other people. Maggi was one of our expert witnesses and expert she was. I learned so much from Maggi about El Salvador and how to think about the important issues we needed to grapple with in our case. Our victory was hers too.

I recently called on her to ask for some help in getting some documents. Of course, she generously offered to track them down for me. Maggi's way again....always the offer, assist in any way possible, do the work, help make change.

She is sorely missed and will be long remembered.

Patty Blum
Senior Legal Advisor,
Center for Justice and Accountability
co-counsel, Romagoza-Arce et. al. v. Garcia and Vides-Casanova


The following letter was sent to a friend of Maggi’s. It was not intended for submission to this website but, with the author’s permission, we include it anonymously.

I had a glance at David Holiday's blog site a couple of days ago and was very saddened to hear of Maggi's death. That must have been a huge kick in the stomach for a lot of people in El Salvador and in those circles, and not least yourself.

We couldn't claim to have been friends of Maggi's, but we did know each other and spoke from time to time when our paths crossed - often in the UCA, occasionally at meals in other houses.

I don't feel that I want to contribute to the memorial website, as I don't want to 'claim' too much from our acquaintance, but our limited experience of Maggi was enormously positive. In those early days of our time in El Salvador, we were aware of a number of 'giants' who we knew were there for the long haul, and/or with a profound commitment to the people and the various processes of social transformation. Maggi was one among them. Even without the benefit of close friendship, we sensed a gentleness and acceptance from Maggi that quietly affirmed our fledgling, often naive attempts at solidarity and gave us a place. I would like to find a better way to say this that doesn’t sound so corny and trite. That might improve the poetry but it won't better the sincerity. Maggi, along with others on that 'senior level', by who they were and what they gave, made it easier for us to be there, affirmed our choice to be there, and inspired confidence to get on with it.

We hadn’t seen Maggi for a long time, and, not really being in that 'tanda' (ironic choice of word, I know), didn't hear much news of her. Nonetheless, on hearing of her death we were suddenly back in the heat of El Salvador, the tension of the wartime coyuntura, the narrow road between the IDHUCA and the Pastoral Centre, around a table and a meal, the scraps of news to be fitted together, the speculations, and Maggi's gentle, passionate presence feeding the faith to listen, to learn and to act.

Those brief encounters with her were solid enough to bring a taste of emptiness at the news of her death. And enough for us to know that the sense of loss for others will be greater and more keenly felt.

Our thoughts for you, and for other friends we know who loved her more and will miss her most.

Richard Blackburn

It was an honour to have known and been close to Maggi for the decade of our high school and university years; those heady times when there was "music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air". And many are the memories from our sublime beach walks to that hard night - both broke, cold and hungry - hitchhiking south from Santa Cruz. She had my heart for a while, but even after events moved us on and contact lost, there was then, and always will be, a special place in it reserved for Maggi.

Maggi was always going to do well and sure did; always more level headed than this ol' hopeless romantic.

Dammit, Maggi, you were too young ... too soon!

Richard Blackburn

Yolanda Guirola

El Instituto de Estudios de la Mujer "Norma Virginia Guirola de Herrera" CEMUJER, lamenta profundamente la inesperada partida de nuestra querida amiga Margaret Popkin.

Se acercó a nosotras con su sonrisa tímida y su voz suave, interesada en el trabajo que realizábamos sobre la revisión y análisis de la legislación, utilizando la estrategia del uso alternativo del derecho. Se sorprendió que una organización de mujeres que había surgido cuando aún no se firmaban los Acuerdos de Paz, tuviera la visión de desafiar al sistema establecido en donde las leyes "no son asuntos de mujeres".

Desde entonces, catorce años han transcurrido, siempre comunicándonos, preguntándonos sobre los avances de nuestro trabajo, sobre la situación de los derechos humanos de las mujeres y las reformas legales, acerca de los casos que representábamos en los tribunales, intercambiando experiencias que le pudieran aportar en su trabajo contra la impunidad y la independencia judicial.

Conversábamos sobre posibles proyectos conjuntos, en donde pudiéramos desarrollar estudios alrededor de la aplicación de justicia desde nuestra perspectiva. Fueron horas de pláticas extensas con pausas para comentar otros temas de la realidad nacional.

Maggi es de las personas que no pueden olvidarse, deja en nosotras un vacío muy grande y aunque ya no contemos con su presencia física, como en aquellas tardes que hemos estado rememorando, siempre estará presente en cada trabajo que realicemos con las mujeres maltratadas, en cada propuesta de reforma legal que presentemos, en el reconocimiento de los derechos laborales de las trabajadoras, en la búsqueda de la justicia.


Mark Fazlollah

Maggi and I shared a house at Calle Comayagua #1 in San Salvador in 1985 and 1986. It was Maggi and our other roommate, Chris Norton, who held the house together while I scurried from country to country, covering political upheaval. The stability of that Calle Comayagua house allowed me to pursue some of the best news stories of my life.

It was the Comayagua house where Salvadoran union members could talk freely. Where Maggi baked tons of cookies for political prisoners. Where a rickety telex machine transmitted news about American mercenaries aiding Nicaraguan contras. Where Doctors Without Borders maintained its contact with Europe. Where one wounded person recovered. Where we drank excessively.

I was back in El Salvador in 1989 and Maggi was briefly away when the Salvadoran army assassinated Maggi’s boss, Padre Segundo Montes, and the other Jesuits. We met in the United States after the killings. Maggi’s world seemed to have collapsed, but it was Maggi who comforted me when I cried.

We worked Washington at the same time in 2001 and 2002. We’d meet for coffee to yak about Damian and our friends and families. She was very good at making suggestions for my stories and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of post-9/11 American journalism.

Of course, Maggi shaped her life in a way to continue helping Latin America. She maintained a brutal schedule, raising Damian, running the foundation and traveling as much as any of our friends who were foreign correspondents. Before each of her trips to El Salvador, she would send me an e-mail reminding me that I was delinquent on sending letters to Maria Luz, Eduardo and Juan Carlos.

The last time we talked, after her father’s death, we briefly discussed the operation. But mostly we talked about Damian’s upcoming Salvador trip and about a possible trip by them to Philadelphia to see Temple University. I told Maggi that if Damian chose to attend Temple, we could offer him our extra bedroom and food. Maggi thought that a college kid probably wouldn’t want to stay with his mom’s friends, but food might attract him.

And my family and I want you to know that our house is always your house.

Mark Fazlollah

Andrea Stoutland

21 May 2005

Dear Popkin family,

Maggi and I knew each other in El Salvador from 1988 on, and in the intervening years friends told of her continuing work on behalf of justice long after she moved back to the States. She was admired for her unassuming dedication, her intelligence and compassionate devotion to people, human rights and justice, and I was lucky to know also her unfailing kindness.

My sincere condolences to you as you face her shocking unexpected departure from your lives. A particular embrace to Damian. I hope as you grow you will feel accompanied by the many people who respected and loved your mother, and part of her will live on in you. I reach out to you with deepest sympathy.


Andrea Stoutland
Rome, Italy

Diane Ross

I met Maggi at a gathering of first year law students. We were sitting next to each other. We learned we had both been out of school for five years, we both had recently worked as volunteers for a women's health collective, and we both wanted to be labor lawyers. It was uncanny. We formed a bond that lasted from that day forward. I soon learned that Maggi was very, very smart. I couldn't believe my great fortune to be friends with such a smart person.

I became a labor lawyer and Maggi took a different path. I remember visiting Maggi in El Salvador and seeing uniformed men with rifles slung over their shoulders at major street intersections and I remember sitting in a restaurant talking about the political situation. Maggi constantly told me to lower my voice so I wouldn't be overheard. I kept saying things like "what are you doing here -- this is way too scary." Yet I couldn't believe my great fortune to be friends with such a brave and committed person.

After Maggi moved to the D.C. area, she and Damian often traveled to Los Angeles over the Christmas holidays or in the summer. Maggi would usually try to find a way to come up to San Francisco to visit me, even if it meant flying back to D.C. on a red eye. I couldn't believe my great fortune to be friends with such a caring and giving person.

In fact, the entire way Maggi lived her life was an inspiration to me.

I sometimes ask myself if I knew I had one year to live, what would I do with my life. I think if Maggi had known she was going to die she would have continued doing what she was doing -- raising her beloved son, fighting for human and civil rights, caring for her many friends. On the other hand, maybe she wouldn't have remodeled the kitchen.

I include a note of humor because with all her monumental qualities, Maggi was also good at being silly. I loved watching her tease Damian and laugh with him. Damian, your mother loved you more than anything and was very proud of you. It is so unfair to lose her so soon. Please know that your family and Maggi's friends all love you and will support and care for you in any way we can.

Maggi's friendship was a huge gift. I love her and will miss her terribly. But it is some small comfort that the gift of her friendship will be with me in my heart forever.

Diane Ross

Roberto Cuellar

27 de mayo de 2005

Estimada Familia Popkin:

Nos hemos enterado, con profundo pesar, del fallecimiento de nuestra amiga y colega Margaret Popkin.

Maggie, tan cercana a la lucha por la justicia en El Salvador y en las Américas nos ha dejado hoy y al lamentar su partida, debo decirles que nos deja encendida una esperanza por la justicia en las Américas. Maggie fue una de esas pocas y extrañas personas que renunció a cualquier protagonismo porque siempre procuró dejarlo abierto al papel principal de las víctimas en la lucha por hacer justicia en casos de derechos humanos.

El Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos tuvo la experiencia y el pensamiento de Maggie en nuestros cursos, en publicaciones y estudios sobre la justicia hemisférica. Al rendirle homenaje a su memoria, ahora solo pido a Dios, nuestro ser supremo que le tenga a Maggie en bien y en paz

En estos difíciles momentos de confortación, la Presidenta, el personal y su servidor deseamos expresarle nuestros sinceros sentimientos de solidaridad.

Hacemos extensivo el más sincero pésame y cariño a su estimable familia y muy especialmente a su hijo Damian.

Roberto Cuéllar M.
Director Ejecutivo

Angel Celis


Mis mas sentidas condolencias primito, me sorprendió tan triste noticia, al igual que tu el año pasado perdí a mi padre y hace un mes falleció mi abuelito, no te contare lo mal que me senti y siento ahora, solo te diré que la familia y los amigos son la fuerza que nos ayuda a seguir, tienes que ser fuerte y apoyar a tu abuelita Juliet, no la conozco pero dale un abrazo bien fuerte de mi parte al igual a tus tios Jeremy y Susan, Damián tu familia esta contigo, Yo estoy contigo, aunque estemos tan lejos siento lo que te esta pasando, te estoy contigo primito.

Damián recuerda que aquí en Perú tu familia esta contigo siempre, todos sentimos la partida de Maggi.

Mi hermano Kike aun no sabe esta mala noticia, te estaremos llamando en la noche, espero poder encontrarte.

Me puedes contactar...estaremos para ti siempre como familia que somos.

Recuerda que te queremos Muchoooooooo

Te mando un abrazo muyyyyyyyy fuerteeeeeeee y duradero

Tu prima


Lima - Peru

Recuerda a toda tu familia que esta contigo Damian

Tu Abuelita Juana

Tu Tía Yola

Tu Tía Carmen

Tu Tía Abi

Tu Tía Rosa

Tu Tía Diana

Tu Tío Carlos

Tu Tío Julio

Tu Primo Kike

Tu Primo Alex

Tu Primo Gian Carlos

Tu Prima Toña (Yo)

Tu prima Patty

Tu prima Janet

Tu prima Ingrid

Tu prima Yeni

Tu prima Breda

Tu prima Guisela

Tu prima Katty

Tu prima Harumi

Tu los mas pequeños Johan, Asvaria, Nicole, Edu


New York Times

The Monday, May 30 edition of the New York Times has an obituary.

Mirna Perla

Para Maggi, su familia, sus amigos y nuestros amigos en común.

Perder a Maggi, ya lo han dicho muchos de sus amigos y amigas, defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos en El Salvador, Guatemala, Estados Unidos, ha sido muy inesperado, es muy triste e impactante. Pero también nos obliga a reflexionar sobre sus aportes en el campo de la defensa y promoción de los Derechos Humanos, en donde se destacó en la forma correcta, como lo debe hacer una verdadera defensora de los derechos humanos, con mucha humildad, con mucha mística y sin afán de notoriedad ni protagonismos. Pero con mucha rigurosidad.

Como profesional y como amiga y compañera fue un ser muy especial.

La conocí en el centro penal "La Esperanza", en San Luís Mariona de Ayutuxtepeque, en San Salvador, El Salvador, a donde ella acudía para conocer de cerca la situación de los presos políticos en el año 86.

En estos aciagos días, en que habían aproximadamente 1200 reos políticos, la mayoría en el sector de presos políticos de "Mariona", y menos de un centenar de mujeres en la cárcel de Ilopango.

Ahí encontré a Maggi, velando por el respeto a los derechos humanos de los perseguidos por el delito de ser sindicalistas, cooperativistas, catequistas, estudiantes de secundaria o universitarios, combatientes del FMLN y hasta los miembros de la comisión de derechos humanos, entre los que se encontraba Herbert Anaya, mi esposo, que estaba privado de libertad arbitrariamente, pues nunca existieron pruebas en su contra de los delitos que le acusaban, al menos no eran pruebas obtenidas lícitamente, para sustentar los cargos que le fueron atribuidos.

En estas penosas circunstancias, Maggi sugirió documentar ampliamente la aplicación de la tortura en contra de los presos políticos. Invitó a Herbert que elabora su testimonio para dejar constancia de la tortura que le fue aplicada en la extinta Policía de Hacienda, las advertencias de que dejara de difamar al gobierno, pues de lo contrario le matarían -- amenazas a muerte que fueron una realidad el 26 de octubre de l987.

Maggi, siempre nos dio aliento a mis 5 hijos y a mí, después del asesinato de mi esposo.

Siempre que nos encontrábamos hablamos del proceso de reforma judicial y la situación de los derechos humanos. Recuerdo que en muchas ocasiones hablamos del trabajo en Pro-búsqueda de niños y niñas desaparecid@s y fue ella que hizo el contacto con CEJIL para presentar algunos de los casos de niños y niñas desaparecidos ante el Sistema Interamericano, entre los que se encontraba el caso de las Hermanitas Serrano, desaparecidas por el ejercito salvadoreño en 1982 y que significa una gran oportunidad para que el Estado salvadoreño dé una respuesta a la familia sobre su paradero, tal como lo ordena la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.

Conocemos que unos de sus últimos esfuerzos se enfocaron en el amicus curie dirigido a la Corte Interamericana en relación a este caso, lo mismo que había trabajado un análisis sobre todo este proceso.

Maggi nos deja como tarea muy clara, seguir luchando por el fortalecimiento del sistema de protección a los derechos humanos, continuar la difícil tarea de velar por el respeto de los derechos humanos, sobre todo en beneficio de los marginados, los mas humildes, los que nuestro profeta, pastor y mártir, monseñor Romero llamaba los sin voz. Concretamente, nos deja la tarea de velar porque se cumpla la sentencia de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos en el caso ya mencionado de las hermanitas Serrano.

No quiero dejar de agradecer a Maggi por su última visita a El Salvador, para participar en la jornada de conmemoración del martirio de los padres jesuitas, asesinados en la UCA el 16 de noviembre de l989, junto con sus empleadas Elba y Celina Ramos, por el gobierno salvadoreño. Lamento no haberme quedado más tiempo, pues fue la última vez que compartimos nuestros sueños por un mundo en que se respeten verdaderamente los derechos humanos.

Mirna Perla

Maggi's letters from El Salvador

Dear Friends of Maggi,

As we continue our sad chore of going through Maggi's papers, one of the things that stands out is the collection of circular letters that she sent to so many of you during her years in El Salvador. Addressed to "Dear Friends," these letters constitute an extraordinarily detailed chronicle of the political scene in El Salvador from the fall of 1985 to 1992. Those of you who have read them know that they are pure Maggi: precise, carefully worded, but filled with her passion for the people she was working with.

We are already thinking about getting the series of letters published as a book. It would certainly be an important historical document, and also a testimonial to the work Maggi did, as well as the efforts of so many Salvadorans and other human-rights activists to create a just society there. Of course, the letters would need explanatory notes for the benefit of readers who will not recognize all the names, movements and events Maggi referred to.

The first step in this project, however, will be to make sure that we have a collection of all the letters. I am attaching to this a "calendar" or list of the letters that Maggi had in her own file. I have also indicated how many pages long each letter was, and what the first line said. If anyone reading this message has letters that are not listed here, I hope you will contact me at and let me know. I do not need duplicate copies of the letters that are already on my list, but if Maggi wrote personal notes on the letters (as she did on some of the ones I received) that would be of general interest, I'd be pleased to have those as well. Those of you whose activities are described in the letters may be able to help by providing context for what Maggi wrote.

Sincerely, Jeremy Popkin

Los Angeles Times

In addition to the Washington Post piece last Sunday, the LA Times ran a piece yesterday on Maggi.

Antonia Saquicuray Sanchez

Estimada Familia Popkin y de DPLF:

Con mucha tristeza he recibido la partida de Maggi, persona comprometida con la defensa de los derechos humanos y democracia. En el Perù se le recordarà siempre con aprecio y nostalgia.

Tuve la oportunidad de reunirme con ella en el mes de Febrero cuando vino al Perù, y habia la posibilidad que volviera en junio o julio, la vamos a extrañar, mi solidaridad con su familia y colegas que trabajaron con ella. La que escribe es una jueza peruana y miembro de la Asociaciòn de Jueces para la Justicia y Democrcia del Peru.

Un abrazo
Antonia Saquicuray Sanchez
Lima Peru

Rachel Sieder

I first met Maggi in El Salvador in 1993 and we kept in touch through work after that. I didn´t know her well, but what little I did know confirmed that she was a hugely generous person, enormously committed to what she did, and modest to a fault. Her work is quite brilliant and has been so important to advancing the rule of law and justice in the region. (In fact I´m writing this from Guatemala, where only this week someone was singing the praises of the last workshop on coordinating state law and indigenous law that Maggi organized here). She was always so helpful to students I sent her way, she really went the extra mile to help and I know they all appreciated that so much, as did I. It´s a terrible shock to hear this news about someone so young, and so valued by so many people. Maggi will be sorely missed. Please accept my condolescences for your loss.

Rachel Sieder

Beth Van Schaack

I am writing to express my condolences. I worked with Maggi on a human rights case brought in the US on behalf of 3 clients from El Salvador. Maggi was one of our expert witnesses. She may have won our case for us. I wish you could have seen her on the stand - she was incredible. Absolutely unflappable, even in the face of tough cross examination. She believed so strongly in human rights and the rule of law that nothing could shake her from the truth. The defendants were found liable - the first Salvadoran abusers ever to be held legally accountable. Maggi was a wonderful, warm and gifted woman who did so much for others. She will be missed.


Marge Swedish

I am an old colleague of Maggie's, having collaborated with her in the LAWG's Guatemala sub-group some years ago now. I cannot tell you how sad I am about her death, how much I respected her work, always marked by integrity and principle. She was a marvelous, dedicated woman who will be much missed in the human rights community.

May you all know the many embraces of Maggie's extended community of colleagues and admirers.

Margaret Swedish

Lupita de Espinoza

Estimados amigos:

Con gran pesar he recibido la noticia del deceso de Maggi y les escribo para expresarles mi tristeza por su muerte y mi solidaridad con Ustedes.

Recordaré siempre a Maggi como una extraordinaria mujer cuyo aporte y solidaridad con El Salvador fue de gran valor.

Visitar Washington sin poder ver y conversar con Maggi no será lo mismo.


Lupita de Espinoza
Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (IDHUCA), El Salvador

Familia Castro Urviola




Tracy Fitzsimmons

What a hole Maggi's death leaves -- not just in our hearts, but in this world. She was one of the good ones. Chuck, Shayla and I grieve with your family,

Tracy Fitzsimmons

Jane Rocamora

I am so, so sorry. We are indeed a poorer community without Maggi.

Jane G. Rocamora

Henry Campos, Sidney Blanco

Querida Maggi:

Te conocimos en el momento preciso, cuando estabamos en busca de personas que entendieran nuestra labor como fiscales en el caso de los jesuitas de El Salvador; no solo encontramos alguien que nos comprendió, sino que se volcó decididamente a trabajar por esa misma causa. Compartimos aquellos angustiosos momentos, en pláticas casi clandestinas y planificamos estrategias jurídicas para el proceso penal seguido contra los asesinos.

Pero tambien encontramos una amiga, departimos muchas reuniones y no olvidaremos tu gesto amable y cariñoso, tu sonrisa expresiva y tu sencillez palpable. Trabajadora incansable, identificada plenamente con nuestro país (El Salvador) y su gente.

En nombre de todos los salvadoreños que nos vimos beneficiados por tu capacidad y apoyo, pero sobre todo por esa amistad fraternal, te reiteramos nuestro cariño por siempre...

Henry Campos
Sidney Blanco

Jeremy Popkin

May 26

Dear Friends of Maggi,

We continue to be comforted by the wonderful messages that you are sending to this site. In return, we would like to share with you something from Maggi's childhood that we found in her house. In 1957-58, our family spent a year in the Netherlands. Maggi was in second grade. For her eighth birthday, her school class made a little autograph album for her. Most of the entries are in Dutch, which was, believe it or not, Maggi's first foreign language, but her teacher wrote this in English: "Dear Margaret, Now you're leaving our school and the Netherlands. I like to say, that we were glad to have you with us. You've been a good friend for all of us. Always gay and kind. Try to be, as you've always been, sunny and gentle, then I'll be sure that you continue making friends, wherever you go." (I wish I could also post the charming picture the teacher drew, of a group of children in colorful costumes surrounding Maggi.) I'm sure you will agree that Maggi grew up as her teacher hoped, and really did make friends all over the world.

Love to all, Jeremy (Maggi's brother)

Helen Mack

Michael Czerny, S.J.

(to be read at the mass to be held Thursday, May 26th, at the UCA)

Dear companions and friends of Maggi:

Peace to you, and Christ's consolation! In the book of Mark, we read: Take heed, watch: for you do not know not when the time will come...and what I say to you I say to all: Watch." (Mark 13:33, 37). I quote Jesus' words because, it seems to me that Maggi was always heedful, attentive and she watched. Despite the terrible blow of the assassination of Father Segundo Montes and the other brothers on November 16th, 1989, she was not frightened, she didn't panic. She was ready to move forward, to return to the UCA's Human Rights Institute and fulfill her commitment. During the two first years (1990-1991) we worked together as director and assistant director. Her response to any human rights violation and to all injustice produced by the system -- especially by the judicial system -- was translated into attention, study, research and precision, always seeking the light of liberating truth. And if today we all -- her family, her colleagues, all of us -- find ourselves in a state of shock at her unexpected death, it will be a comfort to us to comprehend that Maggi was a sister who was always ready to embrace everything, to enjoy the good, but also to confront the bad. For this reason, I thank the Lord for Maggi, for her life and for our friendship. And I ask the Lord to grant all of us the same heedful attention that she always demonstrated and that Jesus recommends to us: "Take heed, watch: for you do not know not when the time will come...and what I say to you I say to all: Watch."

With my prayers, memories and solidarity from Africa,
your friend and companion in Jesus Christ,
Father Michael Czerny, S.J.

Queridos compañeros y amigos de Maggi:

¡Les deseo la paz y la consolación de Cristo! En el evangelio de Marcos leemos, “Estad alerta, velad, porque no sabéis cuándo será el tiempo…y lo que a vosotros digo, a todos lo digo: velad.” (Mc.13:33,37). Cito estas palabras de Jesús porque, para mí, Maggi estuvo siempre alerta, atenta y veló. A pesar de estar terriblemente golpeada por el asesinato del padre Segundo Montes y los demás hermanos el 16.11.1989, no se asustó, no entró en pánico. Estuvo lista para seguir adelante, para volver al IDHUCA y realizar su compromiso. Durante los dos primeros años (1990-1991) trabajamos juntos como director y subdirectora. Su respuesta a cualquier violación de los derechos humanos y a toda injusticia proveniente del sistema -- sobre todo, el sistema judicial – se traducía en atención, estudio, investigación y precisión, buscando siempre la luz de la verdad que libera. Y si hoy todos - su familia, sus colegas, nosotros -- nos encontramos en estado de shock por su muerte inesperada, nos reconfortará interiorizar que Maggi era una hermana siempre lista para abrazarlo todo, para gozar de lo bueno pero también para afrontar lo malo. Por eso, agradezco al Señor por Maggi, por su vida y por nuestra amistad. Y pido al Señor nos conceda a todos nosotros la misma atención alerta que ella siempre demostró y que Jesús nos encomienda: “Estad alerta, velad, porque no sabéis cuándo será el tiempo…y lo que a vosotros digo, a todos lo digo: velad.”

Con mi oración, recuerdos y solidaridad desde África, compañero en Jesucristo y amigo, Padre Michael Czerny, S.J.

Carmen María Hernández Centeno

Mayo 21, 1950 - Mayo 18, 2005

Querida Maggi: Una vez más te adelantaste a todos tus amigos y amigas, ¿cuántas veces planeamos sorprenderte? Y tú nos dabas el gusto de pensar que le habíamos logrado y que lo que tenías guardado discretamente en una bolsita para compartir con todos era pura casualidad.

Hoy tu partida prematura, nos sorprendió a todos, esta vez no pudimos ver tu tímida sonrisa y el sonrojo tan particular al entregarte tus regalos de cumpleaños. Déjame contarte que este 21 de mayo, estuvimos las y los de siempre, hubo vino y brindis en tu nombre y al igual que las copas nuestros ojos se pusieron cristalinos y el dolor se hizo nudo en nuestro pecho, pero cantamos, compartimos y celebramos tu vida.

Querida Maggi, como a ti te gustaba, esta vez nos reuniste a todos y todas, como siempre sin alardes ni avisos, esta vez nos convoco tu silencio y los recuerdos que cada uno/a guardará junto a su corazón, gracias por quedarte con nosotros por siempre.


Para mi querida Maggi, mi hermana, mi confidente y el hombro donde siempre repose y me sentí querida y comprendida. Yo me enteré de tu partida el día jueves 19 de mayo, quise detener el tiempo y quise apagar la voz que me comunicaba tu partida, me he
negado aceptar que ya no veré tu sonrisa ni recibiré tu peculiar hola, me niego a perderte y la muerte no ha de vencerme, mientras yo viva tú estaras viva conmigo, es una promesa.

Yo sé, que hay muchas personas que te amamos y me cuento entre ellas, habrá otras que te quieren por tus muchas muestras de cariño, otros compartieron contigo tu trabajo como buenos compañeros y compañeras. Nunca sabré decir quién expresara mejor tu ausencia, pero no quiero saberlo.

Entre tu y yo, querida Maggi como lo estuvimos siempre desde que te conocí, cargando a nuestros hijos, nuestro querido Damian y tus queridos sobrinos caminaremos juntos sobre el camino que tu marcaste, ya lo sabemos somos una te amo y te llevo conmigo, por tanto mientras mi corazón aún tenga un latido y las ideas no abandonen mi cerebro, tu seguiras estando aquí viva y presente, siempre presente. Me despido como siempre, hasta pronto, hasta mañana.

Carmen María

Benjamin Cuéllar

Murió Maggi, subdirectora del IDHUCA cuando llegué a
éste hace màs de trece años.

De ahí en adelante, entrañable colega y mejor amiga;
encarnación de la profesional solidaria con la causa
de los derechos humanos, sobre todo en El Salvador,
sin protagonismos personales ni institucionales.

Reservada y hasta tímida, no era de las que expresaban
mucho lo que sentían; pero cuando lo hacía, había que
sentirse halagado. A mí me hospedó en bastantes
ocasiones y durante las dos últimas me ocurrió
precisamente eso -el sentirme halagado- por dos cosas:
reunió amistades comunes en su casa por mi visita, la
primera; y, la más importante, me pidió que la
acompañara a ver a Damián, su hijo, jugando un partido
de football americano; me explicó el juego y la
función de Damián en el mismo, la vi emocionarse y
aplaudirle como buena madre. Me contó, esa y otras
veces, sus preocupaciones por ese joven inquieto y
rebelde; por la salud de su papá que después murió...

La extrañaré en las audiencias de la Comisión
Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, con su mirada y su
sonrisa especiales; en los eventos por las víctimas y
la justicia acá en El Salvador; en la lucha contra la
impunidad en el caso jesuitas; en las coordinaciones
para hacer algo con sus investigaciones y
publicaciones; en cada persona que acude esperanzada
al IDHUCA, del que nunca salió...

Benjamín Cuéllar


from the Institute of Human Rights of the UCA, San Salvador

Claudia Martin, Diego Rodríguez-Pinzón

(click on image for larger view)

Naomi Roht-Arriaza

May 20

Dear Damian, Julie and Maggi's family generally,

I can't even express how much Maggi will be missed. She was one of the most straightforward, dedicated, kind people I knew. In her quiet, unassuming way she touched the lives of many people, including me. She was always happy to share information, help with ideas and editing, figure out problems and provide an extra bedroom in DC. I was shocked, as we all were, that what should have been routine turned out not to be -- a reminder to us all to cherish each other all the time. My thoughts are with you through this terrible time. I am sorry to miss the memorial service (it's my daughter's college graduation) but will be thinking of you. Let me know if there's something I can do to help.

With sincerest condolences,

Steve Weber, Program on International Policy Attitudes staff

May 23
Dear Popkin Family,

The Due Process of Law Foundation shares office space with our group on Massachusetts Ave. While I've known Maggi less than a year, and only through occasional contacts, I was greatly saddened by her death.

Last December we went to an office-wide lunch; I sat across from Maggi and had the opportunity to learn a bit about her work. Of course, it was a charming, thoughtful conversation. We spoke further then and again around the office. Her intelligence and quiet warmth were always evident. When I look at her career, I envy the contributions she made to many people, organizations, and societies. I'm sure you are very proud of her.

With my condolences,

Steve Weber


We were so sorry to hear of Maggi's passing. She was a beloved colleague and the suite (to say nothing of the world) will be a less dynamic, pleasant place without her.

We would like to make a contribution to support the translation of her book into Spanish. Please contact us when you are able to sort out the details.

At times like this there is little to say that doesn't feel small or trite. Please know that we loved her, and that we hope you find peace as you see and seek the community of those who also loved her.

-The Staff at the Program on International Policy Attitudes
Steven Kull, Stephen Weber, Clay Ramsay, Dominic Treglia, Evan Lewis, and Meredith Perry

Michael Ames

Dear Julie:

...there's something cosmically wrong when people who work so hard for others' rights are struck down like this. Our best wishes.

Michael Ames, Director
Vanderbilt University Press

Lisa Haugaard

May 22

Dear Damian, Julie, and other members of Maggi's family,

I was so sorry to hear about Maggi. I had known Maggi for a number of years, and had worked with her particularly when she was at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights. She put her remarkably keen intellect to the service of human rights, in Latin America and around the world. She was not satisfied with bandaid solutions or easy answers but sought for systemic improvements in justice systems which would lead to real and lasting strengthening of the rule of law, so that the abuses she saw in El Salvador and other places would not occur again. In recent years, she seemed very happy with the innovative work she was doing at the Due Process of Law Foundation.

With love,

Lisa Haugaard
Latin America Working Group

Jennifer Casolo

May 22, 2005

Dear family and friends of Maggie,

I am unable to be with you this afternoon--to hug each other and to cry and to tell Maggie stories and to feel her presence in the wind. I am thousands of miles away at another memorial for a friend´s deceased mother, but I will hold all of you in my heart today.

Let me share just a little of who Maggie was to me, how her friendship transformed my life, and what I wish I had said to her in the years since I left El Salvador.

I arrived in El Salvador in March of 1985. The community of North Americans was smaller in those days--it seemed as though we all knew each other -human rights workers, progressive journalists, and church workers-and we helped keep each other both politically informed and emotionally saneŠor as sane as one could be amidst the terror.

Maggie knew my co-worker, Linda Garrett from Los Angeles and so was one of the first other North Americans that I met. I was the young kid on the block, just 23. Maggie was in her 30s, and I was something of a loose cannon--too ingenuous, spontaneous, impassioned to take the proper security precautions. But what Maggie offered me, is what she offered so many of us--unconditional acceptance. Combined with her brilliant, analytical mind she possessed a deep understanding of human weakness and so she didn't write people off for one mistake or ill-placed comment.

She said she was looking for someone to jog in the early mornings--jog in civil war El Salvador. I quickly volunteered. I don't know how much real exercise we got. Our pace was slow and the 5:30 am encounters quickly became times to share personal dilemmas or political discoveries. Maggie was one of the first people to help lay out a road map of the various NGOs, labor unions, cooperatives and other political forces for me. Some mornings she would share the testimony of a political prisoner she had interviewed, sometime I would have a new information from one of the churches or government offices. She would counsel me on my foibles, advise me as to who to approach and how, explain where conflict of interests turned into a mine field. She guided me without being asked--not with some hidden agenda or condescending superiority, but with an understanding of how hard it was to navigate the Salvadoran political geography. And perhaps I sometimes had a piece of personal advice about the sea of emotions we encountered. During those mornings, I felt that Maggie let me embrace her exceptional mind and generous heart as well as her places of fragility--how acceptance seemed in those days so earnestly sought and so hard to come by.

Those runs wove a friendship that time and distance could not tear. Often accompanied by a beautiful rose-gold sky and a wistfulness in our voices, those runs were a time when our feet could move forward even as we admitted to one another how incredibly impotent we felt before the death and cruelty strewn by the U.S.-sponsored war.

As I write this the tears come--I can picture Maggie cocking her head a little to the side and cracking a slight smile that often conveyed that she knew much more than she was saying. I remember trying to put the Maggie I knew together with her stories of New England days in hand made long cotton skirts

Holidays, birthdays, moments when friends were arrested--these are the times we shared--as I am sure everyone is mentioning. And I remember the day she first told me that she was thinking of being a single mother. As child of a single mother, I was frightened for her--but wanted to support her decision. Maggie chose to believe in a better world--and to be part of bringing one to birth by uncovering the hidden injustice. In her faith that the world could be better, she decided with strength and courage that she could bear and raise a child. How happy we all were at her baby shower, and how we celebrated when Damian was born. How he brought new smiles to so many of us! And then I left El Salvador...Damian only a toddler.

Many years later when I stayed with Maggie and Damian at their home in Takoma Park and met this vivacious boy who chatted with his mom and guests with great ease. I felt that mother and son had given birth to one another. That all the beauty in Maggie had surfaced--nothing hidden, that Maggie's quick mind invited Damian to always verbalize what he though or felt and that Damian with his love for sports and high energy pushed Maggie beyond herself in ways she never imagined.

And now four years have passed--and I didn't tell Maggie all of the above, nor did I tell her that her book was assigned to me for reading in graduate school at her alma mater, UC Berkeley. But I want to tell you--and I want to tell that part of Maggie that lives in each of us.

There was a time in El Salvador of great hope, great commitment, great risk, and great tenderness. Maggie was shaped by and helped to shape that time. In truth that time exists as does Maggie in the hearts of sooooooo many of us foreigners and Salvadorans.

Maybe to end this reflection I would rework one of the songs to the martyrs,,,

With you Maggie, there are thousands that have died
Valuable compañeros that truly loved
With you Maggie the best ones have already left us
Those who fell for our freedom...

Maggie´s life was a life dedicated to freedom, may she live in us as we continue that path.

I love you, Maggie

Jennifer Casolo

Michael Czerny, S.J.

Nairobi, 21 May 2005

Very dear Maggi's family,
I am so sorry to hear this terribly sad news about Maggi and I hasten to send you my deepest sympathies and condolence. I'm the Canadian Jesuit who became director of IDHUCA after Fr. Segundo Montes was killed, and Maggi and I were colleagues for two years until I left the UCA for Rome. Despite all the confusion and tensions involved in trying to rebuild IDHUCA 1990-1991, Maggi and I were the closest co-workers and truly friends. I always admired, and very much relied upon, her unswerving dedication to the truth and to justice, even when there were pressures from every side. No one worked harder, without complaint, and her only devotion greater than for the cause of human rights was her love for Damian and her family. The last e-mail I received from her, a month ago, was in response to my condolence on the passing of Mr. Popkin; here it is (below), because I think you would like to have it. I join you in thanking God for her life and all she gave and shared, and I pray that gratitude and good memories may slowly take their place along with your painful shock and sense of loss.

Joining you in mourning and especially in giving thanks, yours devotedly
(Fr.) Michael Czerny, S.J.

Dear Michael,

Thank you so much for your message. We had a wonderful celebration of my father's life yesterday, full of laughter and tears, with lots of relatives, friends, colleagues, and former students. My father had been very disabled by emphysema and practically blind in recent years, but his intellectual capacity never diminished. He was writing books and coming up with new ideas until this final illness.

All the best,

Gene Palumbo

(this was posted earlier on David Holiday’s website)

I thought I’d add something that, as Cathy Potler put it, “captured some of [Maggi's] finest characteristics.” Maggi’s friend Gene Palumbo, a journalist living in El Salvador, wrote it for a memorial service for Maggi’s father. Maggi decided not to read it at the service, explaining why in a note to Gene that reflected her characteristic modesty:
I was really touched by your overly generous words. I passed them along to my mother, but we had so many people who wanted to say things directly about my father and their relationship with him that it didn't seem right to include something that focused on me during the ceremony. This may sound strange, but it hadn't really occurred to me before that my somewhat skeptical tendencies in El Salvador might actually have come from listening to my father, who never accepted any dogma (he was expelled from the Young Communists at age 15 for criticizing the Hitler-Stalin pact).

Gretta Siebentritt said Maggi told her she was pleased by what Gene had written. With that in mind, and with Gene’s permission, I’m reprinting it here:
I spoke only once with Maggi's father, so I can't say I knew him. But if it’s true that "by their fruits you shall know them," he must have been quite a person.

I wonder what kind of intellectual he was. If he was the kind his daughter is, he was the best kind. El Salvador is a place where, too often, and sadly, people take sides in a way that means they stop being self-critical and open. They become predictable. Maggi isn't like that, and wasn't like that when she was here. I wish you could know how helpful, how important that was to so many of us -- and how refreshing it was. If Maggi got some of that from him, he sure did a great job.

I wonder if he helped give her something else: the kind of courage you had to have to go to El Salvador when Maggi did -- right in the middle of the war -- and to go there to do what Maggi did: human rights work on behalf of those who were targeted. On a Sunday afternoon like this, during those war years, you knew where you'd find Maggi: at the prisons, visiting and interviewing people who'd been captured. Some were from the non-government human rights commission; other commission members had been murdered. To be identified with those people – as Maggi surely was by prison and government authorities – meant putting yourself at risk, but that didn't stop her. I’d guess her dad felt very proud of that.

Finally, how many people do you know who, right in the middle of a situation like that, would choose to start a family and raise a child? Richard Popkin's daughter did that. So if it's "like father, like daughter," he must have been quite a guy. I wish I could have known him.

David Holiday

Maggi’s death, for all of us, was unexpected. But equally unexpected for me was my immediate sense of loss. Maggi was the kind of friend and colleague who, like so many others, I simply took for granted. I would always try to see her when I came to Washington, and it was always expected that she (and occasionally Damian) would stay at my house when she came to El Salvador.

As I’ve thought about Maggi over the past few days, I realize that I’ve simply always counted on Maggi to be there. I’ve known Maggi ever since 1987; in the early 1990s we shared an office for a brief period in San Salvador. And in recent years it was wonderful having Maggi as a frequent guest in my house in El Salvador, where we would often sit around my kitchen for hours, sipping tea or coffee (or wine), and catching up on our mutual friends or talking politics. I especially appreciated being able to count on her to be patient and open-minded as she listened to my rant of the week.

Maggi had a critical eye, but she was not judgmental. You might have heard her comment on a badly written report, or a poorly planned event she’d witnessed (or more often than not, one in which she herself was a speaker), but her criticisms were never personal. Now that I think about it, it seems that she often rescued the positive in every person and situation. Hers was a kind, gentle and unassuming spirit that seemed to defuse any anger and negativity she came up against.

Maggi was quietly but persistently passionate in her advocacy for the victims of human rights abuses, but she was also extremely dispassionate about politics. As far as I could tell, she held to no ideology, unless caring deeply about truth and justice could be considered an ideology.

I remember worrying about Maggi when she left El Salvador, and started looking for a job in the U.S. She waited, and waited, and waited, and I remember urging her to take anything, anything at all, so she could get begin to get settled. I think those were difficult years financially -- and very few of us, I think, would have chosen the path that she did -- but her waiting paid off when she finally got the job at the RFK Center.

Then I worried that Maggi was going to be eaten alive by Washington and its ego-driven politics. I mean, how could a gentle, unassuming, and self-effacing person like Maggi really expect to survive there? But Maggi surprised me. She created a niche for herself, and it was a niche that was totally true to her convictions.

Looking back on Maggi’s career, it’s evident that her path was uniquely her own, and that the only lead she ever followed was her desire to make a difference, to make a contribution. She had a calling, and she followed it.

One of things I appreciated about Maggi in recent years was how she sought to create links between different people involved in justice reform across Latin America, and beyond. She really wanted people to talk to each other, to listen to each other, to learn from the experience of others. And she never needed to take credit for her contributions. In that sense, she was a kind of “open-source” intellectual, advocating for greater transparency and access to information in judicial systems, and walking the talk by readily making available everything she and others did. (Just check out the DPLF website to see all of the publications she generated and put online.)

As we all know, Maggi had a profound attachment to El Salvador, and in recent years she always seemed to know even more about happenings there than those of us who were living there. Maggi had many friends in El Salvador, but she had family in El Salvador as well. Here I think of Maria Luz and her two sons, Juan Carlos and Eduardo, who lived with Maggi for many years. What I say about their relationship is that, at Maggi’s despedida when she and Damian left El Salvador over 10 years ago, Maria Luz was deeply sad, and shared with all of us present that she felt she owed her life to Maggi. I saw that deep love for Maggi every time she came to El Salvador, when Maria Luz would bring over dozens of tamales and pupusas, and she and her family (which now includes two grandchildren) would hang out for hours on end. And Maggi was always there for them (emotionally as well as monetarily) as they struggled to survive. I wish I could have been with them in the past few days, because I know how utterly devastated they must feel.

Of course, Maggi also brought Damian into this world – and as Madalene O’Donnell reminded me the other day – that was certainly the best thing she ever did.

I’m not really sure what I think of the notion of an afterlife, and I’m certainly unsure of what Maggi would have believed, but as some of her friends gathered last weekend for her memorial service, I felt very strongly that Maggi hasn’t really left us.

Sue Popkin

For Maggi From Sue

Maggi was my big sister, older than me by more than a decade. I didn’t know my sister very well when I was growing up. Although by all accounts she thought I was a great addition when I was born, she left home when I was just five and after that I only saw her when she would come home for visits. But she was always my cool older sister—beautiful, with long hair and wearing fabulous clothes she made herself. She made pottery, baked bread, was a vegetarian, had cool boyfriends, lived in a funky apartment near Boston. I gave up eating red meat at the age of 16 so I could be like my sister (she always said our Mom’s fried chicken didn’t count as meat, so I could still safely eat that).

As we grew older, I became aware that she was always fighting for justice, starting by organizing a women’s clerical workers union at MIT. When she moved down to El Salvador to do human rights work, I was so proud of her. I would share the letters she sent us to my friends and marvel that I had a sister who was so brave and could do such amazing things. My mother visited her several times and was incredibly proud of what the work her daughter was doing.

When Maggi gave birth to Damian in 1988, my mother went down to be with her and help, as she has for all of her grandchildren. Because Maggi was a single mother, my mother forged a special bond with Damian, a bond that became even closer when Maggi had to have surgery for a pituitary tumor three times over 2 years, and Maggi and Damian spent months at a time living with my parents.

Maggi and Damian moved here in 1994, a year after my family had settled in Virginia. For the first time, we were able to really spend time together and get to know each other as adults. We raised our children together, watched our sons play with dinosaurs for hours—Maggi always was amused by the way Zach, two years younger and very scientific, would correct his older cousin about dinosaur names. We began taking Damian to the beach in Chincoteague with us when he was seven, which became a treasured family tradition.

When we adopted our daughter Rachel in 1997, Maggi and Damian came over immediately to admire her. Maggi and Rachel adored each other; Maggi used to help my husband, Norm, amuse baby Rachel while I taught Zach’s 2nd grade Sunday School class. Rachel loved to visit with Maggi, to make her pictures, and to snuggle in her lap.

Over the years, we held seders together, celebrated birthdays, Mother’s Day, and shared many family get togethers at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Roy’s home in Silver Spring, and pool parties at my Uncle Renny and Aunt Carolyn’s house in Brookeville. Maggi and I both worked downtown, and would meet for lunch to discuss our trials and successes at work, talk about our parents, and most of all, to talk about our three wonderful children. We traded earrings on birthdays, and occasionally, I would be brave enough to try shopping with her—always an ordeal as she would agonize over every decision (but she always looked fabulous!).

Maggi was a wonderful mother, devoted to Damian and the two of them had a beautiful relationship, loving and close. You can tell what a great mother she was by seeing the wonderful person her boy has become. Maggi was a loving daughter, especially close to our mother, but also to our father, Dick Popkin, who nurtured all of our intellectual curiousity and made us laugh at the absurdities of the world. After our father died last month, Maggi and I had hoped my mother would move here to be near us.

The last time I saw Maggi was on Mother’s Day, when our families shared brunch at a restaurant near her house. I feel so lucky to have had these 11 years with her, but they were much too short. She was Jerry’s and my beautiful sister, a devoted mother, a loving daughter, and a good friend. We will all miss her and will try to honor her legacy by carrying on her passion to bring justice and peace to the world.

From her brother, Jeremy

Dear Friends of Maggi,

We are deeply grateful for all your expressions of sympathy about our loss, and for the many offers of contributions to help support Damian's college education and the translation of my sister's book.

Although she professed to be confident about the outcome of her surgery, Maggi had made careful plans for the care of Damian. He will be able to have the education and the start in life that Maggi would have provided for him.

For the time being, we are planning that he will continue to live in Maggi's house, together with his grandmother, and finish high school with his many friends. I know he will also always be able to draw on the world-wide network of friends who knew his mother.

Nothing can bring our dear Maggi back, but hearing about the many people whose lives she touched eases our pain a little bit. I was just a year older than her, so I have no memory of a life without my sister. It is amazing to learn all these wonderful details about what my shy little sister achieved in her life.

On behalf of the Popkin family,

Jeremy Popkin

Queridos amigos de Maggi,

Estamos profundamente agradecidos por todas las expresiones de afecto y condolencias frente a la gran pérdida que hemos tenido, así como la gran cantidad de ofertas para contribuir en la educación de Damián, así como en la traducción del libro de mi hermana.

Aunque decía estar segura acerca de los resultados de la cirugía, Maggi había hecho planes muy meticulosos para el cuidado de Damián. Él va a poder tener la educación y el comienzo en la vida adulta que Maggi le hubiera podido dar.

Por ahora estamos planeando que continúe viviendo en casa de Maggi junto a su abuela, y que termine el colegio secundario junto a sus amigos. Sabemos que él
siempre contará con la red mundial de amigos que conocieron a su madre.

Nada nos va a traer a Maggi de regreso, pero escuchar sobre el impacto que ella tuvo en la vida de algunas personas ayuda un poco a aliviar nuestra pena. Yo sólo era un año mayor que Maggi, y es por eso que no tengo recuerdos de mi vida en los que ella no esté presente. Es asombroso enterarse de esos maravillosos detalles sobre los logros que mi pequeña y tímida hermana menor alcanzó en la vida.

En representación de la familia Popkin,

Jeremy Popkin

Rachel Neild

We took this picture about a year and a half ago of Maggi, Gretta, Christine and myself to wish Coletta a happy birthday and let her know that, even as she was having fun in Europe, the girls club was drinking our usual red wine tipple and going out to dinner in her honor. We all look so chirpy. Our girl's nights out are going to be sorely lacking, but we will always drink a glass to Maggi, preferably her favorite Pinot Noir.

Tina Courtright

Maggi was my colleague at the UCA, an inspiring example in her tireless search for justice for the weak and voiceless as well as for our jefes, the padres jesuitas who were murdered by the army in 1989. We also spent endless Sundays at the beach or pool or birthday parties with our small children - her Damian and my Nicolita - quietly being mothers together. I was very sad to see her leave El Salvador in 1994, but I soon found out she was merely broadening her reach :-)

Hay quienes luchan un día y son buenos.
Hay otros que luchan un año y son mejores.
Hay quienes luchan muchos años y son muy buenos.
Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida:
esos son los imprescindibles.
---Bertolt Brecht

And those are the ones we will miss the most.

Tina Courtright

Francisco Diaz Rodriguez

La noticia de la muerte de Maggi es tan dolorosa como inesperada. Su inteligencia y tenacidad, su valentía y modestia, forman parte de la historia de los derechos humanos y la justicia en El Salvador. Su memoria estará presente en la luchas por lograr la Paz con Justicia en este país que amó.

Con tristeza,

Terry Lynn Karl

President Privett, Trustees, faculty and staff, parents and most especially graduates, thank you for the honor you have bestowed upon me today. It belongs as well to all human rights defenders, some of whom are in this audience, and especially to our colleague Maggi Popkin who tragically died this week and whose service to El Salvador and to justice will always be remembered. These people work tirelessly without recognition to make human rights central to our country and to our earth, but their lives, like my own, are immensely enriched by this work.

From a speech to the Graduating Class of 2005, University of San Francisco, May 20, 2005, upon receiving an honorary doctorate

Gustavo Pineda

Lamento muchisimo esta muerte, me ha impresionado mucho. Somos tan fragiles, y sin embargo, detras de la obra de Maggie esta el testimonio de muchisima fortaleza; somos tan efimeros, pero lo que Maggie hizo tiene mucha solidez como una escultura, o una astilla de jade azul, que es la que da el aliento de eternidad (como dice un poema maya)

Pienso en ustedes