Anna Maria with her special friend, Federico
Some say the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Others say only the good die young. Death is never easy to comprehend. To the Aztecs, death was merely part of the circle of life. It was a continuum, not an end. They believed that those who had passed on were never gone but lived on in a different capacity.

For Anna Maria Arias, 41, the founder, publisher, and editor of LATINA Style magazine, all of the above applies. She was beautiful, bright, and dynamic, and although she lost her battle with aplastic anemia on October 1, 2001, she lives on in the minds and hearts of those who knew her, and in the pages of her magazine. Her life is the story of a woman who accomplished a lot in a short period of time and who will be greatly missed.

As a child, she was shy. Born in San Bernardino, Calif., she was the first of three children and the only daughter. At an early age, Anna Maria exhibited her mother’s introverted nature, but Rita Arias would have none of that. "I enrolled her in dance class," her mom says. "I figured if she had to perform, it would build her confidence as well as make her more comfortable in front of people."

Those early classes seemed to do the trick. When Anna Maria was in the sixth grade, she entered a talent contest at her school, without telling her parents. Rita and husband Jess Arias, Jr. attended the show, not knowing that their daughter was about to perform. Suddenly, the announcer called out her name and she emerged on stage wearing white go-go boots and singing "These Boots are Made for Walking." Looking back, Rita believes this event marked a turning point in her daughter’s life. "My jaw dropped I was so surprised and delighted at the same time. There was Anna Maria, strutting and singing on stage. I remember telling myself, ‘wow, she’s really come out of her shell."’

As a high school student, Anna Maria was a leader. She won positions as cheerleader and student body officer. On a trip to Hawaii she fell in love with the state. Her mother says one day her daughter announced that she was going to work for a summer and save the money to move to Hawaii. At summer’s end, she packed her clothes and left for the Islands. She enrolled at Hawaii Pacific University and obtained a degree in communications in 1987. Along the way, she developed a deep spiritual connection to the Islands and would return every year. After graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C. after winning a fellowship from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) in 1988.

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