Elizabeth Peña, Latina actress gone too soon

Elizabeth Peña, Latina actress gone too soon

Elizabeth Peña was a Latina actress and pioneer.

The actress who died Tuesday in Los Angeles at 55 performed in many roles where she broke stereotypes.

Among my favorites were “Lone Star” and “Tortilla Soup.” She also co-starred in “Jacob’s Ladder” and “La Bamba.”

The Cuban-American actress started her career in 1979 in a movie called “El Super” and played the daughter of Cuban exiles.

She struggled to avoid stereotypical roles and typecasting.

“There are a lot of jobs I’ve turned down because they wanted me to play what I call ‘Miss Cuchifrito’ types,” Peña once said.

She starred or acted in in more than 100 movies and television shows.

She also played Sofia Vergara’s mom on Modern Family.

Columbia College Chicago celebrated the 25th anniversary of “La Bamba” in 2012 and brought together Peña, and actors Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales.

“In many Latino families you can find the grandmother, mother and daughter who have all seen this movie,” she told Vivelo Hoy. “..It had a big impact in the Latino community.”

I interviewed Peña when she spoke at Columbia College Chicago previously in the fall of 2008.

She spoke about Latina women in Hollywood and how they faced stereotypes.

Times are changing and there are more Latinas on television today. Just this week two new shows debuted  starring Latinas, “Cristela” and “Jane the Virgin.”

Peña broke ground decades before and it’s sad the curtain closed on her life too soon.

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