Carmen Zapata was an Emmy-nominated actress who started a foundation to promote Hispanic writers because jobs were so scarce. "She was an inspiration for me," said Luis Vela of the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles. Her film credits included Sister Act.
Zapata began her career in 1945 on Broadway in Oklahoma! and went on to perform in other hits like Bells Are Ringing and Guys and Dolls. She sang in Bloomer Girl, No Strings, Show Boat, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off and Funny Girl, as well appearing in dozens of television series, including nine seasons on the bilingual children's programme Villa Alegre on the Public Broadcasting Service. She had continuing TV roles in The Man and the City and The New Dick Van Dyke Show. She collected Emmy nominations for best supporting actress in a segment of Medical Center and for the TV film Carola.
Born in New York City of Mexican-Argentinian descent, Zapata joined forces with the Cuban-born actress, playwright and director Margarita Galban to found the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in 1973. The organisation presents four plays a year in its 99-seat theatre. Productions alternate in English and Spanish, with some shows taken on the road by production companies.
"Everyone who worked with her felt she had created something really important and was making our community a better place," said Vela. He said she was once asked how she wanted to be remembered, as an artist, producer or founder. "`I prefer people remember us as educators,"' she replied.
Carmen Margarita Zapata, actress: born New York 15 July 1927; married 1957 Ron Friedman (divorced 1963); died Los Angeles 5 January 2014.