Lupe Ontiveros: Farewell My Friend

 In a Class of her Own

Yesterday we lost a friend, a mother, a wife, an icon and an activist for her Latino community that she loved so much.  Lupe Ontiveros passed away in Whittier, California at around 10:00 PM surrounded by her friends and family.

I met her in 1978 when I was cast in my very first theatrical production, Zoot Suit, the hit play by Luis Valdez.  It was an eclectic cast of mostly Latino actors.  It’s where a group of us met Lupe for the first time and bonded for a lifetime of friendship. Yesterday the life, and the heart of that group of actors came to an end, with much of the former cast members, which met 34 years ago, there to say goodbye to her. “My Zooters” she liked to refer to all of us.

Lupe Ontiveros and Enrique Castillo in Zoot Suit

There alongside her family was her extended Zoot Suit family who have shared a lifetime of memories — the laughter, the frustration, the celebrations, the triumphs and the disappointments.  We loved her, as did millions of her fans the world over, Latino and otherwise.  We had the pleasure to have had her in our lives as our friend, our confidant and our party buddy.  She shared special moment in our lives —  the birth of our children, the many birthdays, the baby showers, and the quinceneras.  She was always there when you needed uplifting, there to always lend a helping hand, there to make us laugh, there to share her knowledge and her love of life – there for all her friends and family — always.

Evelina Fernandez & Lupe celebrating at my 25th wedding anniversary

No party was complete without Lupe’s beautiful spirit and boy did she love to dance – salsa was her cup of tea and she was a sight to see when she tore up that dance floor.  We all have such great memories of the good times we spent with her for so many years – she was the life of the party.  But that was only a small part of who she was.  Lupe embraced life within her community with the same fervor.  A social worker prior to her acting career, no cause too small for her participation, she championed many causes in the Latino community whether it was in entertainment, the United Farm Workers, the fight against cancer, voter registration, Aids, the fight against hate talk and crimes against Latinos, the hearing impaired community and so many others.

I loved her spirit.  I loved her.  I will miss her.  But I know she kicked open the doors to heaven last night, called out to her friends that went before her, and is having one heck of a salsa party.
In Memoriam:  September 17, 1942 – July 26, 2012

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