Miriam Colón, the Puerto Rican actress best known for playing Mama Montana opposite Al Pacino in Scarface, has died at the age of 80. Born in Ponce, Colón moved to New York City in 1953 where she became the first Puerto Rican member of the Actor’s Studio where she was accepted after only one audition. She became a staple of the U.S. Latino theater scene, founding the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in 1967. Also known as el Teatro Rodante Puertorriqueño performed in both English and Spanish for audiences across all boroughs, eventually finding a home at the heart of the Great White Way where it still currently resides.
While her lauded work on stage eventually earned her an an Obie Award for “Lifetime Achievement in the Theater” back in 1993, the list of Hollywood films on her resume are just as impressive. Throughout her career she got to star in films alongside Marlon Brando (One-Eyed Jacks), Harrison Ford (Sabrina), Sharon Stone (Gloria) and Matt Damon. In 2013, she even earned some of the best reviews of her career (and an Imagen Foundation Award) for her portrayal of an old curandera in Bless Me Ultima, the filmed adaptation of the classic Chicano novel by Rudolfo Anaya.
It’s no surprise that with a stellar career spanning more than six decades (she got her first starring role when she was 12 in the Puerto Rican film Los peloteros) during which she championed Latino talent and culture, Colón was awarded the the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2014. Colón is survived by her husband, Fred Valle who told The Associated Press that she died early Friday because of complications from a pulmonary infection.