Amherst, MA – Angel Nieto, born in Cuenca, Spain on May 3, 1940, was the second of five children of Angel Nieto Lledó and María Romero Contreras. Growing up under the fascist Spain of dictator Francisco Franco, he nonetheless grew to be a democratic socialist and an advocate for social justice. After graduating from high school, he, a cousin and two friends left Spain in search of adventure, traveling through France, Britain and Germany, working as pizza makers, artists in street and other miscellaneous jobs before returning home two years later. . Back in Cuenca, he studied to become a teacher, a profession he would not begin until a few years later after moving to the United States. In the early 1960s he moved to Madrid where he studied at the Spanish Institute of Tourism and worked at Iberia Airlines. A chance encounter on the Madrid-Cuenca train where he and Sonia Cortés, a 22-year-old Puerto Rican student from New York City studying for her masters degree, were mistakenly assigned the same seat, led to a 4-month whirlwind romance, a runaway in early 1967, and a beautiful and loving 55-year marriage. They raised two daughters, Alicia Mariana and Marisa April, and a granddaughter, Jazmyne.
Moving to New York not long after their escape, Angel and Sonia settled in Brooklyn. He first worked at the Spanish tourist office in Manhattan and later as a professor at the Berlitz School of Languages. A year after the birth of Alicia, their firstborn in 1969, he became a stay-at-home dad and primary caregiver, a role almost unknown at the time but one he cherished with the three children they raised. . . The family moved to Massachusetts in 1975 so that Sonia could pursue doctoral studies. It was there that they adopted their second daughter, Marisa, in 1976. After being the primary caregiver for Marisa for two years, Angel became a bilingual teacher in Holyoke Public Schools, first in Holyoke High School and, later, Peck Middle School and Holyoke College of the Arts. A beloved teacher, he also made his mark as an organizing parent and a strong advocate for his students and their families. A talented teacher for students of all levels, classes and ages, from daycare to college, he was particularly drawn to working with infants at the University of Massachusetts Daycare in North Amherst, where he played music. around the world, sang and played games in Spanish with the babies even though none of them came from Spanish speaking homes. This early exposure certainly opened their minds to a bigger world.
In 1996, Angel retired prematurely to be the primary caregiver for his granddaughter Jazmyne, a role he relished until his last days, 26 years later. Unable as a child to say “Abuelo”, Jazmyne nicknamed him “Abú”. It became not only the name his daughters, all his future grandchildren, their friends and many more would give him, but also his favorite title and role.
Angel Nieto’s love, commitment and generosity to all people and causes of freedom were legendary. He rose at dawn to participate in protests demanding a quality bilingual education and genuine family involvement, and against apartheid in South Africa or the US-backed war in Central America, among others. During a peaceful sit-in at Representative Silvio Conte’s office in Holyoke to protest US involvement in Central America, he was the only non-national arrested. The judge presiding over the case warned him that he would be deported if he appeared in court again. In 2008, after living in the United States for almost 40 years, he added the nationality of the United States to that of his native Spain in a moving ceremony in Boston where he was accompanied by his wife Sonia and his granddaughter Jazmyne.
Humble, modest and withdrawn, Angel has avoided the limelight, instead preferring to shed light on his students, community members and his wife. But his kindness and kindness finally caught up with him and he could no longer avoid the accolades he so deserved: in 2019 he was selected as one of the “Hidden Legends of the Paper City”, organized by Pa ‘ lante, a group led by young people. Holyoke High School Restorative Justice Project. A permanent exhibit honoring the 26 people selected for the honor is located at the high school, and an Angel banner hangs on Main Street in Holyoke. That same year, he also received the Antonia Pantoja Distinguished Achievement Award from the Latino Scholarship Fund of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, a fund that he and other community activists had helped establish 20 years earlier.
Teacher, poet, published author, visionary, community organizer, restorer of anything that needs fixing, passionate gardener, artist, precocious feminist before men define themselves as such, “honorary Puerto Rican” and lover of the island, and the best father and grandfather imaginable, Angel Nieto was a man of many talents and dimensions. He was predeceased in Spain by his sister María Alicia and his brothers Mariano and Antero. He is survived by an adorable family, including his wife, children and grandchildren, as well as his brother José Ramón Nieto Romero in Spain, his sister-in-law Lydia Cortés, his son James, his wife Nell and their daughter Aniela. in New York City, as well as several other in-laws, nieces and nephews in New York, Spain and Puerto Rico.
A resident of the Amherst area for nearly five decades, Angel died on December 18, 2021 of congestive heart failure in palliative home care. He was surrounded by Alicia, Marisa, Jazmyne, most of his 12 grandchildren and his “Sonita”.
A scholarship in his name for the benefit [email protected] students was established at the Community Fund of Western Massachusetts. Checks may be made payable to the Community Foundation of Western MA with the Angel Nieto scholarship listed in the memo line. Online donations can be made at www.communityfoundation.org
Commemorative guestbook on www.douglassfuneral.com
Published by Daily Hampshire Gazette on January 1, 2022.