On July 24th Latina film and TV actress Lupe Ontiveros died at the age of 69 after a brief battle with liver cancer.
Born Guadalupe Moreno in Texas in 1942, Ontiveros originally worked as a social worker until the 1970s when she supposedly responded to friend's "dare" and answered a newspaper ad looking for movie extras. Her first big break came in 1979 when she and other Latino actors including Edward James Olmos were cast as members of the Broadway play "Zoot Suit." Eventually her career on both stage and screen would last nearly five decades.
As noted by The A.V. Club, Ontiveros "found it difficult to break out of the all-too-familiar ghetto of roles available to Latina performers, such as domestic help, hookers, and the occasional grandmother". Nevertheless she reportedly claimed in a 2002 interview that she had a "hell of a good time" portraying maids.
Among Ontiveros roles was her portrayal on the big screen of Yolanda Saldivar, the convicted murderer of Tejana music star Selena Qunitanilla. According to the New York Times, her performance in 1997's "Selena" was so credible that "for years the singer’s fans would hiss at her when she walked into a public place".
Among her other celebrated roles was as a mother-in-law in the TV series "Desperate Housewives", a theater director in the 2000 film "Chuck & Buck" and as the mother of America Ferrara's character in the 2002 movie "Real Women Have Curves." (The latter performance earned her and Ferrara a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival).
In lieu of flowers it's requested that donations be made either the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness Inc. or the Los Angeles Theatre Center care of the Latino Theater Company, which she helped establish.
The following video was made to honor Ontiveros in 2010 when she received a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers:
Ontiveros is survived by her husband, three sons and two granddaughters.
Online Sources - The A.V. Club, HispanicBusiness.com, CBS News, New York Times
Video Source - YouTube via user naliporg