Carmen Zapata was a dear friend and confidant to our Founder, Dionicio Morales, over the course of their respective lives. It was through this collaborative association that I, too got to know Carmen. Carmen had an illustrious career in theater, cinema and more recently, as founder of the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (BFA). She collaborated with MAOF in many activities as part of her advocacy efforts to bring the magic of theater to our community. She worked closely with MAOF, and we were pleased she accepted our Aztec Award, the highest honor MAOF can bestow upon inspirational leaders from our community. She was a perennial guest at our Aztec Award ceremonies, lending her undying support to our fundraising efforts.
She was a great humanitarian who began her entertainment career as a singer and subsequently as a comedienne before she acted on Broadway in 1946. Perhaps her most famous role was playing one of the singing nuns from the popular Sister Act movies starring Whoopi Goldberg. She had countless roles in theater, television, and movie roles. When asked, she said one of her favorite roles was as Mayor Doña Luz on PBS’s Villa Alegre. She also loved her teaching role at East Los Angeles College, where she taught acting. She loved her trade and wanted to share her love of theater with anyone willing to learn and with the thousands of fans of her theater productions at her beloved Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Lincoln Heights where I, too, got to enjoy plays.
Ms. Zapata was an original member of the Dionicio Morales Hall of Fame located at MAOF’s headquarters, where our community’s past and present leaders are recognized for their contributions to the community’s wellbeing. She was a friend to many of the employees and board members of MAOF, and I will always cherish my memories of her at our events.
Carmen died in her home in Van Nuys on Sunday, January 5th.
Carlos J. Viramontes
Chairman of the Board
Mexican American Opportunity Foundation