In Memoriam of our Beloved Friend and Colleague



 Portrait of Maria C de la Vega

María Cristina de la Vega

Writer, Translator, Interpreter, Entrepreneur

June 28, 1952 Havana, Cuba

April 18, 2014 Miami, Florida

Our beloved friend and colleague, María Cristina, left us on Good Friday, 2014.

It was on June 13, 2013, that she revealed publicly in her blog, Musings that she had been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a cancer of the bone marrow. Although she described in detail the shock she experienced upon learning of the diagnosis, the focus of her essay was to tell the interpreter community about the disease and to encourage us to become bone marrow donors.

This was so typical of María Cristina, or “MC,” as so many of us called her. Instead of indulging in self-pity or asking “why me?” she immediately externalized her experience in an effort to aid others.

This generosity of spirit is what we will always remember about María Cristina. A woman of extraordinary accomplishments (including scuba diving instructor!), she never hesitated to share her time and considerable talents with anyone who asked.

A consummate professional, María Cristina de la Vega was certified as a Spanish<>English interpreter by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, by the Supreme Court of the State of Florida and by NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators).  She was an excellent businesswoman who had earned her MBA from Florida International University, and had founded her own business, ProTranslating, Inc., in 1973, of which she was president for over forty years. Her dedication to the interpreting and translation professions led her to participate actively in NAJIT, the American Translators Association (ATA) and the Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC-Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence).

She was a profound and intuitive writer, who loved to share her thoughts, ideas, experience and expertise by means of her blog Musings, her monthly column in the ATA Chronicle, Interpreters Forum, and the NAJIT newsletter, Proteus.  She was also instrumental in setting up the NAJIT blog, and worked tirelessly as contributor and editor.

Although María Cristina was active in other organizations, we, the members of NAJIT, think of her as particularly ours. María Cristina became a NAJIT member in 1997. She was extremely active in the organization, and her contributions were uniformly invaluable. She was a member of the Public Relations Committee and of the Board of Directors of NAJIT from 2011-2013; only her illness forced her to give up these activities.

To the interpreting community, María Cristina was a treasure. We miss her, but we know she will always be with us in spirit.

Memories and Tributes

Gio Lester (NAJIT blogger):

When I think of María Cristina de la Vega the image that comes to mind is that on an ant dressed as teacher, standing in front of a blackboard guiding us, teaching us new ideas, opening doors for us to grow through. A very dynamic presence, not threatening in the least, always ready to lend a hand. That is the María Cristina I knew.

We were not close as individuals, but were so as professionals. I will miss her friendship and guidance, as well as her sense of right and wrong (so much like my father’s), and her generosity.

María Cristina shared her knowledge, savvy and experiences with anyone willing to listen. It’s no surprise the NAJIT blog attracted her so. Many of us benefit from it and her blog family will keep on working, carrying on the torch lighting and lightening up the trail for those who come behind us.

Jaime M. de Castellvi (NAJIT blogger):

Thank you, this is beautiful.  This has been such a shock, it’s still sinking in.  We all knew about her sickness, but she was always so matter-of-factly there for everyone, that one didn’t expect that she would be gone, as it seems, from one day to the next.

As with Gio, I was not personally close with her because I only used to see her and talk to her at NAJIT conferences (and that in the broken and intermittent way in which such contact takes place in such situations).  But I always found her extremely warm and friendly, positive, supportive, intelligent, professional, and quietly driven (and with this neat sense of underlying, mostly unexpressed, but often quietly smirking wisdom).  So I had a lot of respect for her professionally and, in what extremely little I knew of her personally as well.

Though we all know that she is gone, she does not feel quite absent somehow.  It is hard to explain.  It is as if everything that she started and that she set in motion still carries a bit of her and of her presence amongst us.

May her heart weight far lighter on the scales than Ma’at’s feather, for surely many must be the souls who rejoice in the fact that she lived and that it was given to them to share a bit of her incredible —and yet so human and simple– existence.

Jennifer de la Cruz (NAJIT blogger):

I first heard the name of María Cristina De La Vega at the NAJIT Conference in Long Beach only a few short years ago. I soon started noticing how she has involved herself in numerous projects that have a profound impact on our profession. When she started to lead me personally as my mentor, I was in awe. She always guided me with kindness and poise, giving honest, forward-thinking, knowledgeable feedback that allowed me to grow. I knew I could go to her for answers.

Now that María Cristina has passed, I think that her legacy is bigger in so many of us than she would ever have envisioned. She gave of herself generously and built strong foundations that we can continue to work from in honor of our shared profession. I am eternally grateful.

May your legacy live on, María Cristina, and may you rest in peace until we meet again.

Kevin Mercado (NAJIT blogger)

Though I only corresponded with MC via Skype and e-mail she inspired both my personal and professional growth. I appreciated the opportunity she gave me with both the public relations committee and the blog. She encouraged me to write more often and to remain connected.  Her passion and dedication for the profession and to her colleagues was always evident. I still look forward to meeting her one day.

Kathleen Shelly (NAJIT blogger, NAJIT Board member)

Aside from her inveterate kindness and helpfulness, María Cristina did something for me that I will never forget. The fact is that I never would have begun contributing to the NAJIT blog if it hadn’t been for this lovely and talented lady. I had always loved to write, but didn’t think I really had anything to say. María Cristina encouraged me, and helped me learn to write essays that were coherent and readable. (I will always remember her advice on dividing sections of a piece by means of headings. Genius.) She was so willing to share her hard-won experience with writing for internet publication.

I am now going back and reading what I consider María Cristina’s chef d’oeuvre—the weekly entries she began publishing in her blog, Musings, in May of 2011. The more I read, the better I feel that I am acquainted with this extraordinary woman.

A brief glance at the listing of categories María Cristina addresses in this invaluable collection reveals the eclectic nature of her far-ranging interests. They include: broadcast interpreting, yoga, compassion, technology, the economy, nutrition, goal setting, language training, meditation, music, court interpreting, medical interpreting, philosophy of life and God. Again, the range of the pieces is amazing, from witty comments on current events related to interpreting and translation to profound and thought-provoking meditations on the meaning of life, and becoming a better, more fulfilled human being. I encourage all interpreters to go online and indulge in good read, and I hope that Musings will always remain available on the internet for the elucidation of future interpreters, translators and others who are interested in our profession.

Rob Cruz (NAJIT Board President):

To know María Cristina, or MC as I called her, was to know a kind and gentle soul. In the few short years that I was fortunate to call her my friend I always saw a person striving for self- improvement and determined to share her experiences with others. Whether physically, professionally, emotionally or spiritually she sought growth and fulfillment with no time to spare for negativity or things beyond her control. She was committed to her family, her friends, her work, her colleagues and her profession. Although illness struck shortly after her election to the NAJIT board, she was doggedly committed to serving out her term and to the vision she had for NAJIT. She was the driving force behind the creation of NAJIT’s Public Relations committee as well as the NAJIT blog. Those will now serve as a part of a vast legacy she leaves behind.

I know she will rest in enlightened peace but her passing leaves a tremendous void in the lives of all those she touched. She enriched my life, she challenged me and she inspired me. I am grateful for that but infinitely more grateful that she befriended me. I am a better person for having known her. May her family and friends find comfort from her poise and draw strength from her strength. I will miss her but she will always live in my heart and the echo of her spirit is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Rosemary Dann (Proteus editor, former NAJIT Board member):

Dear María Cristina,

We met at a NAJIT conference under auspicious circumstances.  I was proctoring the written exam, and you were the only candidate sitting for that session.  The testing company had neglected to send us the essay questions, and the omission was only discovered mid-test.  Test-taking is a normally highly stressful experience, but to have a major glitch occur can be devastating. I was frantic, apologizing profusely, but you remained calm, and during the hour it took to get the materials faxed to us, YOU reassured ME that everything would be all right. (It was – you passed with flying colors.)   I knew then and there that you were an extraordinary person whom I wanted to know better. It was my good fortune when you were elected to the Board of Directors, and a privilege to work with you for two short years.  Your enthusiasm for life, even while in the throes of illness, was a hallmark of your character.  All of us who knew you have been touched in special ways, and each of us has a special story.  You were, and will continue to be an inspiration to me and many others, and you will be sorely missed.

9 thoughts on “In Memoriam of our Beloved Friend and Colleague”

  1. Don’t know if I met her at the last NAJIT conference I attended or not, however from the tributes I’ve just read, I know she made her mark and left a great legacy for all of us NAJIT members and the Linguist Profession at large.

    Da Yie, Maria! Nyame mfa wo nsie! (Farewell, Maria! God keep you safe!)

    Akan language from Ghana, West Africa.

  2. Gloria Keller says:

    MC first spoke about her diagnosis in her November 2011 blog, and I was impressed by her courage, her grace, and her optimism. Previously I had only known her as a colleague, but I reached out to her because her situation reminded me of two family members, and because I’ve been registered with Be The Match for many years. Her warmth and cheerfulness touched me. We are all fortunate to have known such an extraordinary person.

  3. Virginia Benmaman says:

    Maria was a wondergul colleague and a great writer. I had hope she would continue on our Ben and Bar Committee again this year. I will miss her greatly.
    Virginia Benmaman, Ph.D
    Distinguished Professor Emeritus

  4. Janis Palma says:

    María Cristina was the first person ever to teach me how to interpreter and be an interpreter: demeanor, proper dress code, etc. That was over 30 years ago in Miami. And it was thanks to her that I went to take the federal certification exam after that first pilot round and — big surprise for me!!! — became a federally-certified interpreter. After many years of not being in touch, I saw she was very active in NAJIT and quickly wrote to her to thank her for everything she had taught me. I owe being an interpreter to her, and I am glad I had a chance to tell her. María Cristina: un abrazo grandote desde este Caribe que te vio nacer. And if you run into my son in Heaven… do give him a hug for me.

  5. Lola San Sebastian says:

    I do not know how to express what I feel. Just the sadness and sense of frustration. Why, but, why it is always the irrepressible and the very unique person who leaves us before her time?

  6. Luis R. de la Vega says:

    Hi Everyone,
    I am Maria’s son, Luis Ricardo. Although I haven’t had the chance to meet many of you in person, I am reading your posts and I am filled with a wide range of emotions that I’m sure you have all felt during the past week. One of the main things to have struck me since my mother’s death is the depth and scope of her relationships with colleagues and coworkers around the world. I feel like over the past week I learned more about my mother than I had in my preceding 34 years. The outpouring from everyone who knew here has been humbling, and it has helped us a great deal during these difficult times.

    I gave a eulogy at her memorial mass, and I mentioned 6 things that she and I spoke about repeatedly during her last years, and specifically during her last hours. All 6 points are mentioned either implicitly (Making time for spiritual development, going the extra mile for family, giving away what you have, and making time for the things you love) or explicitly (“Doing the right thing”, and “Being humble”). Its apparent to me that many of you captured the very essence of what my mother stood for and I look forward to meeting you in person in the near future and hearing more about your experiences with her. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to NAJIT and its members for taking the time share so openly your experiences with Maria Cristina.

    1. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

      Hi, Luis,
      Thank you so much for sharing her with us. We are better people because of her, and because her family allowed her to follow her dreams and give of herself to us.We are eternally grateful.

      God bless you and your family.

  7. Gladys Matthews says:

    It was a shock to learn about Maria Cristina’s passing. I’ve always admire her dedication to our Association and profession. Now that I know that she kept contributing tirelessly despite or her condition, my admiration for her is greater than ever. She will be deeply missed.

    Gladys Matthews

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