Myrna Salazar dead: Chicago Latino Theater Alliance co-founder and executive director was 75

Myrna Salazar, who co-founded the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) and served as its executive director, died suddenly at the age of 75, the alliance announced Thursday.

“To say that Mirena was a force of nature would be an understatement. She has been a leader, advocate, change maker, and a strong voice for the Latino community on issues ranging from education to the arts,” said Marty Castro, Chairman of the Board of Cleta And said the CEO of Casa Central.

Heidi Thompson Saunders, board president of the League of Chicago Theaters, said in a statement: “Myrna’s impact on Chicago theater cannot be underestimated. … Myrna champions Latino theater companies and artists from across the city and throughout Chicago brought the theaters of the Spanish-speaking world.”

Ms. Salazar was a staunch supporter for equality and the representation of Latino artists on Chicago stages. She was also the founder and president of Salazar and Navas Talent Agency Inc., which she operated for nearly 25 years, representing hundreds of Latino actors on stage in films and television.

It was “the only Latino talent agency in Chicago,” said Henry Godinez, Goodman Theater’s resident artistic associate and chairman of Northwestern University’s theater department.

His clients included actors Justina Machado and Raul Esparza and actor-playwright-producer Sandra Delgado.

“She was very dedicated to advocating for and promoting Latinx artists, film, TV, theatre,” said Godinez, who was a Salazar client for Spanish-language gigs in film and TV. “She was really committed to promoting the culture.”

A native of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, she moved to Chicago at the age of 10 and graduated from Wells High School. In 1966, she was crowned Queen of Chicago’s first Puerto Rican Day Parade, threaded at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater in the 2017 Teatro Vista production of Delgado’s “La Havana Madrid.”

The character “Mirena” was based on Ms. Salazar, who spent several evenings in real life at the long-forgotten Lake View Supper Club. He helped research Delgado with memories about his crown, club, and Chicago in that era.

“She was like, ‘sandrita“I used to go to Madrid, Little Havana,” Delgado recalled on Thursday. “‘The owner was the godfather of one of my children. I had my wedding shower there. I used to sing in the club.'”

Ms Salazar connected Delgado to other patrons, and, “everything opened up in the most beautiful way possible,” she said.

For four years beginning in 2007, Salazar also served as director of development and marketing for the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, which produces the Chicago Latino Film Festival each year.

Early in his career he worked as the Project Director for West Town Economic Development Corporation. There he helped small businesses obtain loans, which helped develop the section of Division Street between California and West Avenue, the center of downtown Puerto. Rican community.

In 1982, Mayor Jane M. Byrne nominated her for a position on the Chicago Board of Education. During his five years with the schools, he emphasized bilingual education and reducing dropout rates among Hispanic students.

Ms. Salazar served on the boards of Chicago Theaters and the League of Chicago Theaters and was a member of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Cultural Arts Committee.

Myrna Salazar is photographed outside the office of the West Town Economic Development Corporation in 1982.

Myrna Salazar is photographed outside the office of the West Town Economic Development Corporation in 1982.

In 2016, he co-founded the non-profit CLATA with the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), the International Latino Cultural Center (ILCC) and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA). CLATA’s signature event is the annual citywide destinos. The International Latino Theater Festival, which will present its 5th incarnation on September 14-October. 16, and featuring various presentations, panels, student demonstrations and other presentations.

Ms. Salazari, explaining the mission of the Destinos festival told the editorial board of the Sun-Times In 2021: “These are our stories, our own narratives and our own experiences. They are not impressed by a white director who says you have to look or pronounce a certain way when you speak English. We want things that reflect the value of being Latino, whether it’s through our history or the flavor we bring to the country. And bringing it on stage is very important.”

According to CLATA’s biography, he received a bachelor’s degree from New York State University and also studied arts management at Columbia College Chicago and the Kennedy Center.

“She broke several glass ceilings,” said Jay Kelly, a spokeswoman for Clata.

Godinez said that always stylish and with a “wicked” sense of humour, Salazar enjoyed doing business over lunch at Pilsen’s restaurant.

“She was like an aunt to me,” Delgado calls her “old school Latina” who never leaves the house without full makeup on. Her skin was the prettiest.”

“Chicago has lost a force to be reckoned with,” Chris Henderson, executive director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, said in a statement. “She was a woman who could control any space through her determination and fierce love for the arts. She would love to introduce some of the world’s most exciting artists to her beloved Chicago and the Latino artists and theaters of our city. We know that the lasting impact of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance and the Destinos Festival will continue their legacy.

Ms. Salazar is survived by her children Yvette Sharp, Ileana Romero, stepson Christopher Dovalina; four grandchildren; and her first husband, Florentino Michele. Before her death her second husband, Cesar Dovalina, was the former owner of Spanish-language newspapers, La Raza and La Margarita restaurants.

Leave a Comment