On June 8, 2014, Marco Ugarte died peacefully in his home in Cusco, Peru. Convinced of the wealth within his people, he sought to more deeply understand his Andean culture and use it as a lever to upset the weight of extreme poverty.
“We have lost a friend, a brother, an elder. Marco was among those who stayed the course, right to the end. Sparing no effort, he held fast until his final days, tirelessly sharing his three passions: his family, his people, and the ATD Fourth World Movement.
Marco’s commitment was rooted in his experiences as a child and youth, that made extreme poverty intolerable to him; he too often witnessed injustice. It was in this search that he discovered the neglected, rural community of Cuyo Grande, and from there linked himself to those struggling every day to be recognized in their dignity. As a university professor, he guided his students to embrace this same principle. Outraged by the suffering that extreme poverty creates, he was also courageously involved in the political struggle for social justice in his country.
Marco always sought to take things further; he could never settle for political victories that did nothing to beat back persistent poverty. Meeting Father Joseph Wresinski in 1987 was a pivotal point in his life. From then on, he never stopped promoting Wresinski’s thinking and actions, and providing ways for others to become involved and committed. This led Marco to founding ATD Fourth World in his native Peru.
For Marco, the link between the Andean culture, which values reciprocity, and Wresinski's philosophy, which recognizes each person as an actor, however deep in poverty one may be, was the cornerstone to build on: "In developing ATD Fourth World [in Peru] and allowing Wresinski's thinking to take root, we made reciprocity the element which centered our relationship with the families and with the community" explained Marco.
As Volunteer Corps members, Marco and his wife Rosario put their energy and enthusiasm into training others, passing on to new generations what it means to meet, know, and take action with people in extreme poverty. When they moved to Mexico, their first concern was to meet people in the academic world in order to promote the message of coming together for human rights, inscribed on the Commemorative Stone in Honor of the Victims of Extreme Poverty. While in Mexico, Marco also shared his experience with ATD members in the region, as a Regional Delegate for Latin America and the Caribbean.
We are grateful to Marco for everything he has left us: for the strength of his commitment, for what he taught us.’’