Miriam Colón, the Puerto Rican-born actress whose roles over a seven-decade career included playing Al Pacino’s mother in Brian De Palma’s Scarface and who launched the influential Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in New York, died Friday at age 80. Her husband told the Associated Press that Colon died owing to complications from a pulmonary infection.
Colón came to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and attended the Actors Studio. Her early TV credits included everything from Playhouse 90 to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Dick Van Dyke Show. She had bigger roles in series like Gunsmoke and The Edge Of Night before being cast as Mama Montana in Scarface.
Her later film credits include All The Pretty Horses and the Goal! movies, and she starred in Carl Franklin’s 2013 film Bless Me, Ultima playing Ultima in the adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya’s novel. She also recurred on HBO’s How To Make It In America and later on AMC’s Better Call Saul.
Colón helped found the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in 1967, after she starred alongside Raul Julia in the English-language adaptation of René Marqués’ The Ox Cart (La Carreta), about the Puerto Rican migration. It helped spur the bilingual theater movement in the U.S., launching acting careers and introducing new playwrights to the American scene.
In 2015, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony for her contributions.