Skip to main content

The Citizen

In memory of Mariana Filgueira Risso

Following news of Mariana’s passing, classmates sent messages to her and her family from around the world. A few of them agreed to share those messages with The Citizen.


“When I learned Mandela died, I was deeply saddened. The world lost a fearless fighter. Two hours later, I learned that my mother’s cousin lost his battle to leukemia. He, too, was a fighter, faithful above all to his God, and always the funniest storyteller in the room.
To learn yesterday of Mariana’s passing was beyond devastating. During my MPP1 year at HKS, the unbelievable Mariana and her incredible husband Francisco invited a bunch of HKS friends and randoms (I, a random) to their native country of Argentina. They exposed us to the very best of Argentinian culture, politics, wine, food, and nightlife. Mariana took us into her home and overwhelmed us with her warmth, positive energy and generosity. When I became sick, she took care of me, letting me sleep in her bed and handing me a glass of Fernet (of course, the cure for everything).

Back in Cambridge, she would continue to hand me glasses of Fernet, but this time at Daedelus. She invited me to Latin- and Argentinian-themed parties so I could practice my poor Latin dancing skills and street Spanish. She was the light of the room with an infectious personality.

The world is at a loss because Mariana is no longer with us, but I am blessed that I got to share in her love of life. Panchi, thank you for sharing Mariana with us, and for modeling a marriage based on an endless reservoir of love, equality and friendship. I hope you can feel the outpouring of support for you from every corner of this earth. In my heart, Mariana will always be the next president of Argentina. When I finally learn Spanish, it will be in her honor.”

–          Ruthzee Louijeune


“You taught me to never stop trying… and I won’t.”

–          Nico Grosman


“Besides the unbearable pain of losing Mariana, I feel that our HKS community mourns our beautiful colleague, our comrade and sister because we all carry immense weight of our dreams in our hearts: Dreams of serving our communities, cities, villages or countries. We know this quiet radiant weight intimately as it reminds us each and every day, the purpose of our journey at the Kennedy School. We mourn Mariana even more because we know deep inside all of us, the vastness of her dreams for her beloved Argentina. We know that she was a masterpiece in the making; that Argentina not only lost a beautiful daughter but a leader who wanted to serve her people with the same smile that greeted us every time we met her.

I remember the first time I heard her name was when my MC class fellow, my brother, Francisco mentioned her work in India. The pride in his eyes was contagious- I felt proud of Mariana without even having met her. And then, one day, she returned from her summer in India and told me I know you- I know you’re from Pakistan; with her usual effortless warmth she won me over. Last year, she was my competent TA in Professor Jarding’s class, she was my brother’s dedicated wife, she was ‘El Presidente,’ she was a sister who watched out for me and, once, even checked to see if I had warm winter clothes.

Soon, I hope to be with Francisco or Panchi as friends call him. I will go like others and tell him how much HKS misses him and how countless prayers have been sent his way. As we end this semester with this huge loss in our hearts, I hope to work with friends all around the world to help keep Mariana’s legacy alive through service and dedication; especially for those she strove to serve. Rest In Peace Mariana- the warmth of your presence will remain with us forever- until we meet again my dear sister.

… Touched by a radiant spirit of an angel named Mariana Filgueira Risso. God always wants his best beings back sooner.”

–          Sarmad Palijo


“Just over a year ago, during a seven-hour car ride back from Thanksgiving, Mariana Filgueira Risso shared her dreams with me, Francisco Lanus and Thabang Skwambane. One dream: To become a politician in her native Patagonia. I always admired her small-town roots and her desire to help others back home. Another dream: To create a family, and find work-life balance. My heart aches today at the unbearable injustice of her death, and of her being robbed of those two dreams, and of many more that were never even shared. I teased them both about how they preface disagreements with a bedrock of love: “But mi amor…[insert discord].” Mariana was lucky to live a life in which, even in debate, she was showered with love by Francisco. And we are all better for having known and learned from her. But the pain and loss persist. We are with you every moment Panchi.

–          Adam B. Ellick


“Yesterday, we lost a dear friend, classmate, leader, and noble soul in Mariana Filgueira Risso. It pains me so profoundly to think she has left us forever. Mariana was a truly unique individual; a woman who inspired us all to dream great things for the world. She embodied warmth, strength and vitality and will be dearly missed by the many people that she touched across the globe.”

–          Felipe Valdez


“Tell us, Mariana, is there a snow machine in heaven? Because it has snowed in Jerusalem for the last two days and no one has ever seen so much snow here. A white attraction and distraction that brings joy and amusement and amazement to everyone in equal measure, flakes from the sky that make all kids – and there is a child in every one of us – happy. As I watched it first come down – blizzard-like, even by Boston standards — I thought how happy all the kids would be that school was out and how happy I was that my appointment out of the city would be cancelled, and I wondered who to thank for this white blessing.

And then it came to me.

You would be the one wanting to see all the people to be happy, to see the kids play, to give us an forecasted break from the daily drudge. If there is indeed a snow machine in heaven, I am pretty sure that you were the one who turned it on or at least talked the snow machine operator into keeping the white stuff coming and coming. Thanks, Mariana! And keep up the good work!

You haven’t stopped touching hundreds and hundreds of people. Thanks, from down here, snow angel.”

–          Jacob Dallal


“Mariana, never did I see you without that smile. The smile that always made me smile. It’s impossible to think of a moment when you weren’t spreading happiness around you. Even as you left us, you left us with just happy memories. Away from you – missing you – I still can’t reconcile the fact that we’ll never see you again. Ever. I wish this was a bad dream, and someone would tell me tomorrow morning when I wake up that you’re coming to Cambridge. You have no idea how much we’re all waiting. Sending you love and hugs to a place that is incredibly lucky to have you.”

–          Devesh Sharma


“Thank you for your commitment to life, for trying to make this world a better place and for the smiles you drew on our faces every day you shared with us. We will honor your memory and will keep you alive in our hearts.”

–          Héctor Escamilla


“The proverbial ‘better place’ that we will all go to is more beautiful today with Mariana’s presence. She will be sorely missed in this world though – by all whom she interacted with. Her joie-de-vivre, passion and energy ignited everyplace she went. What impressed me the most was her deep commitment to her country, and to leaving this world a better place; her departure has increased the workload for all of us who dream of a better – more just – world. Francisco – strength and courage to you and your families in these tough times. She will always be with us in our thoughts and prayers.”

–          Rizwan Tufail


“Dear Mariana, I always thought we would hang out again and laugh loud together in Buenos Aires, but it seems like I will not be fortunate enough to have your accompany when I visit your city. It hurts so much to know that you have left us. I am so proud to have a friend like you, who has really lived every day to its fullest. Rest in peace and my thoughts are with you and your family, my dear friend.

–          Jiachen Sarah Zhang


“Wishing I were in Argentina today celebrating the life of a friend whose life changed mine. Mariana Filgueira Risso, you continue to inspire and give me courage. Until we meet again, I love you.”

–          Amy Antonelli


“Darling Mariana, on my last day in Cambridge you and Francisco got up early to jump into the Charles River with me (even though you’d both jumped before), because of course you’d do anything for a friend. “Don’t be scared, just jump”, you said. And I remember going skiing with you and other HKS friends in Maine and you telling me (a complete novice skiier): “You are a natural!”. Because, Mariana, you have the gift of making everyone feel good about themselves. “Mari will be president of Argentina”, we all said and we believed it. Mariana, I am so grateful to to have gotten to know you. And I just don’t know what to say. You gave so much and had so much more to give. Your loss is such a tragedy. You will be sorely missed by us all. Panchi, we have you close to our hearts.”

–          Elisabeth Heid


“My heart weeps over the loss of our dear friend Mariana Filgueira Risso. The heartache is felt world-wide within our HKS family. The many beautiful words poured out by classmates celebrates a radiant life, and I mourn a future without her. My heart pours out to Francisco Lanus, a man who loved Mariana unconditionally and is loved by her unconditionally.”

–          Richard Casares


“Mariana: you were one of those unique souls that walked this planet knowing it could be so much more. You had a touch that was gentle and genuine, and made those of us just getting to know you form an instant connection (as you did with me in Delhi last year). All our thoughts and prayers with Francisco and your family. I want them to know, you will never be gone. You will live on in our memories and in our actions, as we remember the good for which you stood in the world and inspired us to give a little bit more every day.”

–          Divya Dhar


“The first message I got via WeChat when I came back home this afternoon was about this tragic news of Mariana’s passing. I am still in shock and tearing. Mariana and I met in the leadership class during 2011 winter term. She and I were both wait-listed. We formed a team with three other classmates in order to get in this highly-competitive class in HKS. We shared our leadership failures, analyzed the influences of the personal backgrounds, and celebrated the accomplishments of the assignments in various restaurants around Cambridge. It was a time full of laughter and joyful memories. She was such a cheerful person who always spoke in a calm and comforting tone with smile on her face… That teaming up with her was probably my best group work experience in HKS! I’m deeply saddened by Mariana’s passing. Words can’t express my sorrow… She will be missed

–          Molly H.Z. Kwan


“Mariana, my dear, dear friend – There are no words to describe what hole your loss leaves in our hearts…But you have filled our lives with your energy, beauty and love. And this is how you will remain eternally, a source of inspiration and infectious happiness. To me, you embody everything that is good in this world. I am so mad you were taken away from us so early.”

–          Akane Sanankoua Zoukpo


“You had loved life and your Francisco Lanus with all your heart. You two were our “power couple” because you were going to go out there and change the world together! But, my sweet Mariana Filgueira Risso you have already changed the world. You have touched the hearts and minds of so many of your fellow classmates. I will continue to carry with me your idealistic approach to world, your enthusiasm, laughter, energy, your smile and your good will!
To you Francisco Lanus, I wish strength and courage in these hard moments. My thoughts are with you.”

–          Ivana Vukov


“No matter how busy she was, she would make time for people – because she cared. No matter how stressed she was, she would de-stress others – because she cared! No matter how overworked she was, she would stop by, smile, and listen to you – because she cared!

… Mariana Filgueira Risso you were a true dreamer, with the passion and care to change the world. It is a great loss because the world would never see those dreams come to reality. My world would never be the same without you. Until we meet again.”

–          Gazal Kalra


“Mari, you will always be in our hearts. This was too soon and cruelly unfair. The world would have been a better place had you stuck around to do all the great things we all knew you were going to do.”
– Mariya Krasteva