Karla Martinez, the co-host of Univision’s Despierta América, always knew she wanted to be in television, but never expected the opportunity that arose last year when she was asked to be on The View. 

“It was the real American dream come true. I got to sit next to Barbara Walters. I knew I had made it,” she says.

Her appearance wasn’t only about herself, but representing all Latina women. “I think I helped change the way Hispanic women are viewed,” says Martinez who is proud of her education and strong family roots.     

Martinez has been breaking barriers since she moved from Chihuahua, Mexico at age 16 to Warren, OH for her father’s job. High school is stressful enough, but even more intimidating for a young girl with limited English. “I recall the first day when I stood up and introduced myself with a hard accent. I was the exotic Latin girl.” With the help of a tutor, Martinez was a quick study and soon fit right in. “I had the real American high school experience with football, homecoming and prom,” she chuckles.

“My father told me to take the best things from my country and blend them with the best in my new country to make it twice as good.” 

Although her dad was bilingual, her mom also was tutored and “we’d laugh over some of the words she misused that meant something completely different.”

Seizing academic opportunities

Martinez never let the fact English was her second language derail her drive in college, first at Kent State and then at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) where she studied electronic media. “One professor singled out my writing and told the class ‘this girl from Mexico gets a better grade,” she says. 

With an eye on success in America, Martinez never forgot her heritage. “I was sad as we were on the plane leaving Mexico,” she reminisces. “My father told me to take the best things from my country and blend them with the best in my new country to make it twice as good.” 

She uses that same strategy with her young daughters, ages 7 and “almost” 6, to meld cultures. Spanish is spoken in the home to preserve the language while the girls use English at school. Ensuring success for immigrants starts with parents, she says, adding she hopes to start her own foundation to assist in education for Hispanic children. 

In the meantime, she is a bright spot on Despierta América where she never seems fatigued. “I get a good night of sleep, eat right and exercise. I stay positive; always smile and I count my blessings. I am a very blessed person.”