Carmen Zapata has died of heart problems at the age of 86.
According to Luis Vela, the marketing manager for the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles, the Emmy-nominated actress died Sunday at her home in Van Nuys.
Zapata, born in New York City to Mexican and Argentinian parents, partnered with Cuban actress and playwright Margarita Galban to start the foundation in 1973, with the aim of promoting Hispanic writers.
Zapata got her start in 1945 in the Broadway musical Oklahoma and went on to star in Guys and Dolls, Bells Are Ringing, Bloomer Girl, No Strings, Show Boat and an assortment of other plays and musicals.
"She was an inspiration for me," Vela said. "She taught me that art is the key to resolving differences in the community."
The Hispanic actress was featured on the silver screen in Sister Act, Gang Boys and Carola. She was also on television shows like the long-running bilingual children's show on PBS, Villa Alegre, as well as Funny Girl and The New Dick Van Dyke Show.
"Everyone who worked with her felt she had created something really important and was making our community a better place," Vela said. "She was emphatic that what we were doing at the foundation was more important than personal recognition."