They say everyone loves you when you’re dead. Everyone can also love you when you’re alive, if you’re Lupe Ontiveros.
The funny, talented and bursting with life Mexican-American actress Lupe Ontiveros passed away last Thursday in Whittier, CA. Lupe was an accomplished actress and community activist and will be missed by many.
My son and I attended Lupe Ontiveros’ Rosary service last night in Pico Rivera to pay our last respects to Lupe and her family.
It was overflowing with family, friends and fans. One of her three sons read an opening note; sent via Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who had sent a message of condolence from the White House.
Everybody in Chicano theater and film was there, including Zoot Suit playwright Luis Valdez, actor Edward James Olmos, Vanessa Marquez, Pepe Serna, Evelina Fernandez, the guys from Culture Clash, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, current UFW President Arturo Rodriguez and many more. A girl in a “Goonies Forever” T-shirt sat near us in the balcony.
Born in El Paso, TX on Sept. 17, 1942, Lupe Ontiveros appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Selena, Real Women Have Curves, Southland, Desperate Housewives, Rob, As Good As It Gets, Goonies and many more. She started acting as a mid-life lark, answering an ad for extras while she was a social worker in Los Angeles.
Always ready to crack an off-color joke, Lupe was genial and hilarious and also brutally honest about her time in Hollywood.
“Believe me, ” she once told me, “I’ve played A LOT of maids.” She would shake her head in amazement at how some Selena fans still thought she was “the lady who killed Selena.” (That’s the two of us above in a recent photo.)
I drew an obituary cartoon for Lupe which was blown up and displayed outside the church during her rosary and wake. Earlier yesterday when I drew her, I found I couldn’t get her face right, and I was starting to get frustrated. I erased and erased, and finally found the right size and pose for her, and labored to get it right. I could hear her voice over my shoulder, telling me, “Make me look good, Lalo!”
She was beloved because of her approachable, down to earth nature, and the dignity which she tried to infuse into any role she played. The church was packed with fans and tributes because everyone continues to love her.
Today they will bury her with a chorus of mariachis and more much deserved accolades from the Latino community.
Lupe Ontiveros RIP. 1942-2012
Lalo Alcaraz, an NBC Latino contributor, is an award-winning, nationally syndicated Chicano cartoonist and illustrator.