Carmen Margarita Zapata (July 15, 1927 – January 5, 2014) often referred to as "The First Lady of the Hispanic Theater" was an American actress best known for her role in the PBS bilingual children's program Villa Alegre. Zapata is also the co-founder and director of the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles. Zapata took an active part in the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Zapata was born in New York City to Julio Zapata, a Mexican immigrant, and Ramona Roca, an Argentine immigrant.
Carmen Margarita Zapata
July 15, 1927
|Died||January 5, 2014 (aged 86)|
|Spouse(s)||Ron Friedman (1957–1963) (divorced)|
Zapata made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Oklahoma! in 1946. She appeared in over three hundred movies and shows, including Batman: The Animated Series, Married... with Children, Sister Act, and she was Carmen Castillo in Santa Barbara. One of her longest-running roles was on the bilingual children's program Villa Alegre, where for nine years she played the lead character, "Doña Luz."
In 1972, Zapata co-founded the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee with actors Ricardo Montalban, Edith Diaz, and Henry Darrow. She was also one of the original members of the Hispanic actors organization "Nosotros," which was begun by Ricardo Montalban. In 1973, she co-founded the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (BFA) with Cuban-born actress, playwright, and director Margarita Galban and Argentine-born award-winning set designer Estela Scarlata.
In 1976, Zapata joined Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., in starring roles in the 12-episode ABC situation comedy summer replacement series Viva Valdez, about a Mexican-American family living in East Los Angeles, California.
In 1986, she and her writing partner, Michael Dewell, published translations for Federico García Lorca's dramatic trilogy. The title was published by Bantam Books and was part of her effort to bring Spanish language literature to English speakers.
In 1983, Zapata was honored with the Humanitarian Crystal Award from Women in Film. Zapata was also honored with a Hispanic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 for her career trajectory in the arts and for her work with the BFA.
Zapata was nominated for an Emmy twice in her career, once as Best Supporting Actress for her role in a segment of Medical Center and once for her role in the film Carola.
In 1981, Zapata was part of a group of greater Los Angeles women honored by the Young Women's Christian Association with the Silver Achievement Award.
In 1983, Zapata was given the Ruben Salazar Award by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).
In 1985, Zapata was named Woman of the Year by the Hispanic Women's Council.
In 1986, Zapata was the recipient of the Best Translation Award from the journal Dramalogue.
Granted an honorary doctorate in human services from Sierra University.
In 1991, she was among nine Californian artists, arts organizations, and patrons to receive the Governor's Award for the Arts.
In 1999, Zapata was knighted by His Majesty Juan Carlos I, King of Spain and received El Lazo de Dama del Orden del Mérito Civil, the Civil Order of Merit.
Throughout her life, Zapata was involved in various charitable events including sitting on the board of the United Way, the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, the KCET Community Advisory Board, the Boy Scouts of America, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the National Repertory Theatre Foundation, and member of the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Committee on the Arts, the California Arts Council's Ethnic Advisory Minority Panel, and many other organizations. She has also served as a panel member of the Expansion Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Special Olympics Events Committee, and other programs.
|1972||Portnoy's Complaint||Mrs. Harero||Uncredited|
|1973||Bad Charleston Charlie||Lottie|
|1974||The Last Porno Flick||Mama Theresa|
|1976||I Will, I Will... for Now||Maria|
|1977||Billy Jack Goes to Washington||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1977||John Hus||Mother of John Hus|
|1978||Rabbit Test||Madam Nundi|
|1979||Boulevard Nights||Mrs. Landeros|
|1980||How to Beat the High Co$t of Living||Mama||Uncredited|
|1980||There Goes the Bride||Mrs. Ramirez|
|1986||The Education of Allison Tate||Teresa Aleman|
|1992||Sister Act||Choir Nun #2|
|1993||Point of No Return||Judge|
|1993||Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit||Choir Nun #2|
|1994||Por la Vida: Street Vending & the Criminalization of Latinos||Narrator||Voice|
|1996||The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca||Lorca's Mother|
|2000||The Egg Plant Lady||Rosa Vecino|
|2001||The Sleepy Time Gal||Anna|
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- The Sacramento Bee, "Playing Against Type Long Cast In Stereotypical Mexican Roles, Carmen Zapata Has Found A Part That Fills Her Soul In Stc'S "Driving Miss Daisy"(September 11, 1990, Page E1); "She had been christened so in New York City daughter of a Mexican father and an Argentine mother"
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