Mexican-American actress Lupe Ontiveros passed away on Thursday. She was 69.
Actor Jacob Vargas who was by her side Thursday night confirmed Ontiveros passed away on Twitter around midnight Friday. “My friend Lupe Ontiveros just passed away. May you rest in peace. Thank you for your great contribution to film and TV. You will be missed,” wrote Vargas.
Onitveros was reportedly suffering from liver cancer, according to TMZ.
One of Ontiveros’ first roles was playing a maid on the television series “Charlie’s Angels.” And since that role she estimated she played a maid at least 150 times on screen, or 300 if you count her stage performances too.
For many young Latinos who were sons and daughters of domestic workers Ontiveros was a familiar name long before she became a household name for playing Selena Quintanilla’s murderer Yolanda Saldivar in “Selena.”
For me, seeing Ontiveros on screen was meaningful because it was a sign that our parents’ work was recognized by Hollywood. Even when Ontiveros played roles in which her character was talked down to or humiliated it was still meaningful because she played the human part—those were real stories many of us had heard before from our moms, aunts and neighbors.
“At first my only lines were ‘Si, señor, no, señor,’ you know, that kind of shit,” Ontiveros told the LA Weekly.
In 2009, Ontiveros talked to NPR about her mixed feelings playing a maid on screen:
“You’ve got maids and you’ve got maids,” she says. “You got maids that have longevity beyond what you ever conceived of in your wildest dreams. I’ll give you an example — The Goonies. Those that got hooked — I have a whole following of 30-year-olds who got hooked. Oh my gosh, I’m a heroine to them.”
That’s because at the end of The Goonies, Rosalita discovers jewels that enable the family she works for to keep their home. Ontiveros says she gets so many immigrant parts because of her indigenous looks. But she has mixed feelings about playing characters that reinforce the Latina stereotype.
She says that when she goes to auditions, she knows what they want.
“‘You want an accent?’ And they’d say, ‘Yes, we prefer for you to have an accent.’ And the thicker and more waddly it is, the more they like it. This is what I’m against, really, truly,” she says.
“I long to play a judge. I long to play a lesbian woman. I long to play a councilman, someone with some chutzpah,” Ontiveros went on to tell NPR.
“There is so much to fight for, you know, just to stay alive in these times that we’re living in. i think it’s exciting,” Ontiveros said in an interview with Maria Hinojosa on “One-on-One.”
“I think I would have died sooner if I was very calm.”
Ontiveros is survived by her husband and three adult children.