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maria norma montellano

"I've always been the type of person that went against the tide. If I didn't like something I would fight it."

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Born in El Paso, in 1952, Maria Norma Montellano was a loved and known academic and LGBTQ+ activist. She was known to be “witty, feisty and very opinionated”, attributes that led her to actively participate in the creation of programs and organizations that impacted the cultural life in El Paso. Norma was very committed to empowering people and served in many roles that are often overlooked, such as a teacher’s aide, in how they contribute to people’s development of life skills and independence. Norma was humble and hardworking, epitomizing the tireless work of so many lesbian activists on behalf of the whole community. 

She was also a co-founder of

LAMBDA, the first LGBT

community center in El

Paso, along with Rob

Schumaker and Alex

Herrera. This center

provided one of the first

organized spaces outside

of the bar scene for

LGBTQ+ people to

socialize and find

resources.  LAMBDA was

very important not only

for creating visibility for

LGBTQ+ people in El

Paso but in the advocacy

that it created regarding

hate crimes and violence

against LGBTQ+ people. 

The center was a beacon

of hope in a time when El

Paso had very few

resources for queer people.

Norma participated in many public events to bring visibility and awareness to the issues LGBTQ+ people faced. 

In 1995, along with Dr. Yolanda Chavez Leyva, she founded Lesbianas sin Fronteras.  She earned this award (see photo) representing a woman freeing

herself from oppression from La Mujer Obrera.

It is an organization committed to the defense of

Mexican Women’s rights, heritage, and contributions.

La Mujer Obrera’s recognition of the human rights

advocacy efforts of an out lesbian like Norma

encourages equality for all LGBTQ Mexican



Norma was an honored speaker at the UTEP Women's Studies Program's Rainbow Graduation ceremony in May 2010, held in honor of each year's LGBTQ+ graduating students.

Pictured here are a Women's 

Studies volunteer staffing the 

ceremony (Emily Field) with 

Norma. Norma's speech was 

deeply moving, encouraging

the graduates to stand up for 

their beliefs and live their truth.

Norma passed away in 2017 and is survived

by her siblings. She is fondly remembered by


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