Miriam Colón, the iconic Puerto Rican actress, died today at the age of 80 due to pulmonary complications in her home in New York City. She was an influential and pioneering Latina actress with a prolific career in film, television, and theater, sharing the stage with José Ferrer, Raúl Juliá, Sharon Stone, Al Pacino, Marlon Brandon, Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, and Sally Field, among many others.
Colón was born in Ponce in the Caribbean island in 1936. She made her acting debut as Lolita in the 1951 baseball film Los peloteros directed by American director Jack Delano and considered a seminal Puerto Rican film. Produced by the influential Puerto Rican government's Division of Community Education and based on a real story, the film follows Diplo (played by Ramón Rivero) as the coach of an impoverish children's baseball team.
In 1953, Colón migrated to New York to study acting at the Actor's Studio, where she reportedly was accepted by co-founder Elia Kazan after one audition. She worked in theater and television including guest appearances in Peter Gunn and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and in many western television shows.
In 1961, she participated in Marlo Brando's directorial debut One-eyed Jacks in the character of he Redhead, followed by performances in the movies Battle at Bloody Beach, The Outsider, Harbor Lights, and Thunder Island. In 1979, she starred alongside fellow Puerto Rican actors José Ferrer and Raúl Juliá in Life of Sin by Efraín López Neris.
In 1983, she played the Cuban-American mother of Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) in Brian de Palma's Scarface, which was perhaps her most popular film performance.
Other notable film performances include her roles in John Sayles' City of Hope (1991) and Lone Star (1996), Sydney Pollack's Sabrina (1995), Jorge Alí Triana's Edipo Alcalde (1996), Sidney Lumet's Gloria (1999), Billy Bob Thornton's All the Pretty Horses (2000).
More recently she participated in the popular Goal series, The Dream Begins (2005) and its sequel Living the Dream (2007), Rashaad Ernesto Green's Gun Hill (2011), and Carl Franklin's Bless Me, Ultima, based on the novel by Rudolfo Anaya.