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The passing of Dr. Gregorio Martínez Valdés: CIMMYT’s invaluable link to Mexico

April 8, 2013

CIMMYT photoEL BATÁN, MEXICO. 07 APRIL 2013. With great sadness, the CIMMYT community today marks the passing of Dr. Gregorio Martínez Valdés, who retired from CIMMYT in 2001 after a distinguished career of 39 years, most notably in inter-institutional relations. Martínez succumbed to cancer and was 77 years old.

Martínez—respectfully and affectionately known as “Goyo” to all with whom he worked—was one of CIMMYT’s most venerable and valuable “Mexican connections.” His education and early work experience coincided with the beginnings and growth of the Green Revolution, the widespread adoption of improved crop varieties and science-based farming techniques that originated in the Office of Special Studies, a joint program of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government during the 1940s-50s. An important member of that program was Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, who later led CIMMYT wheat research, received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for sparking the Green Revolution, and influenced the direction of Goyo’s work at CIMMYT. Over the course of his life, Goyo also interacted personally and professionally with prominent figures in agricultural research and development in Mexico, including socioeconomists Leobardo Jiménez Sánchez and Heliodoro Díaz Cisneros, the late ethnobotanist Efraím Hernández-Xolocotzi, soil scientist Antonio Turrent Fernández, and Jesús Moncada de la Fuente, current Director General of the Colegio de Postgraduados.

Born in 1936 in Viesca, a small town in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, Goyo finished a BSc at the Antonio Narro Agrarian Autonomous University (UAAAN) in 1957 and went on to complete an MSc (1962) and a PhD (1966), both in agricultural extension and communications, at the University of Wisconsin. During his undergraduate studies he worked as a journalist. He was later employed at the Office of Special Studies and at Mexico’s National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA; now INIFAP) in extension communications. He joined CIMMYT in 1966—the year the organization was launched as an international center—in the area of communications. His early contributions at CIMMYT include support for Plan Puebla, a widely recognized project led by the Colegio de Postgraduados to promote the adoption of modern agriculture by small-scale farmers in Central Mexico.

Given Martínez’s talents and connections and the growing importance and complexity of CIMMYT’s relationships with Mexican institutions at the time, in 1975 Borlaug recommended Goyo’s appointment as Government and Public Affairs Officer, a position he held until his formal retirement in 2001. In that capacity, Goyo was instrumental in building relations with government ministries as part of efforts to properly define CIMMYT’s legal and tax status as an international center in Mexico—a process that took nearly a decade. After his retirement, Goyo served as a full-time consultant for CIMMYT until 2005.

Goyo also taught courses on development communication at the Colegio de Postgraduados, an institution that awarded him an Honoris Causa Doctorate in 2002. He has published 15 articles in peer-reviewed journals, edited or translated numerous technical texts, and served as a thesis advisor for 28 MSc and 4 PhD students. Recognition for his many contributions include awards from the city of Viesca, the state of Coahuila, the UAAAN, the Universidad Autónoma Chapingo (UACh), and the Colegio de Postgraduados.

Aside from his professional contributions to CIMMYT, his steady good humor, warm smile and friendly greeting, and humanism in counsel and action—typically Mexican—Goyo both characterized and helped shape the center’s institutional culture. “One of CIMMYT’s greatest achievements has been to achieve an identity as an international center while keeping its Mexican roots,” said Goyo in a recent interview.

Goyo was also convinced that CIMMYT had stayed true to its hunger-fighting heritage. “This is because of people,” he said. “People like Borlaug and Wellhausen, who rose to the challenges of the time.”