Míriam Colón

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Míriam Colón
Colón in 1962
Míriam Colón Valle

(1936-08-20)20 August 1936
Died3 March 2017(2017-03-03) (aged 80)
New York City, U.S.
Years active1953–2015
Known forMama Montana – Scarface
George Paul Edgar
(m. 1966; died 1976)
Fred Valle
(m. 1987⁠–⁠2017)

Míriam Colón Valle (August 20, 1936 – March 3, 2017) was a Puerto Rican actress. She was the founder and director of New York City's Puerto Rican Traveling Theater. Beginning her career in the early 1950s, she performed on Broadway and on television. She appeared on television programs from the 1960s to the 2010s, including Sanford and Son and Gunsmoke. She is best known as Mama Montana, the mother of Al Pacino's title character in Scarface. In 2014, she received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.[1] She died of complications from a pulmonary infection on March 3, 2017, at the age of 80.

Early life[edit]

Míriam Colón Valle was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on August 20, 1936.[2] In the 1940s, her recently divorced mother moved the family to a public housing project called Residencial Las Casas in San Juan. She attended Román Baldorioty de Castro High School in Old San Juan, where she took part in plays.[2] Her first drama teacher, Marcos Colón (no relation) believed in her talent, and helped her gain permission to observe the students in the drama department of the University of Puerto Rico. She was a good student in high school and was awarded scholarships to the Dramatic Workshop and Technical Institute and Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in New York City.[3]

In New York, she befriended Dean Zayas, another young Puerto Rican actor and future director.[4]


External audio
audio icon Colón's debut in "Los Peloteros" on YouTube

In 1953, Colón debuted as an actress in Los Peloteros (The Baseball Players), a film produced in Puerto Rico, starring Ramón "Diplo" Rivero, and in which she played a character called Lolita.[3] That year, she moved to New York City, where she was accepted by Actors Studio co-founder Elia Kazan after a single audition,[5][6] thus becoming the studio's first Puerto Rican member.[7] In New York, she worked in theater and later landed a role on the soap opera Guiding Light. She attended a performance of René Marqués' La Carreta (The Oxcart) which motivated her to form the first Hispanic theater group, with the help of La Carreta's producer, Roberto Rodríguez, called "El Circuito Dramático".[8]

Colón and James Arness in Gunsmoke, 1970

In 1954, she appeared on stage in "In The Summer House" at the Play House in New York City.[9] Between 1954 and 1974, she made guest appearances in television shows such as Peter Gunn and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She appeared mostly in westerns such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The High Chaparral, and Have Gun, Will Travel. She appeared in the 1961 film One-eyed Jacks as "the Redhead". In 1962, she was featured as the co-star in a teleplay written by Frank Gabrielsen, and produced for the TV series The DuPont Show of the Week. The title of the hour-long episode is "The Richest Man in Bogota", airing on 17 June 1962.[10] It starred Lee Marvin as Juan de Núñez, and Miriam Colón as "Marina" (not Medina-Saroté, as in the original H.G. Wells story, The Country of the Blind). She co-starred as Anita Chavez in Thunder Island (1963), with the screenplay written by Jack Nicholson. In 1963, she guest starred on Gunsmoke, playing the title character, a Comanche woman who marries a settler and the two must deal with the racial hatred of others due to it in the episode “Shona” (S8E22).

In 1979, she starred alongside fellow Puerto Rican actors José Ferrer, Raúl Juliá, and Henry Darrow in Life of Sin, a film in which she portrayed Isabel la Negra, a real-life Puerto Rican brothel owner. In 1983, she was cast as the mother of Tony Montana in Scarface, despite being only 4 years older than Al Pacino. Colón has said that she based her performance on her own mother.[11] She was also cast as María in the 1999 film Gloria, starring Sharon Stone. In 2013, she was cast in the role of Ultima, a New Mexico Hispanic healer, in the movie Bless Me, Ultima based on the novel by Rudolfo Anaya.[12] She appeared in Season 1 of the TV series Better Call Saul in 2015, as Abuelita.

Puerto Rican Traveling Theater[edit]

Puerto Rican Travelling Theater

In the late 1960s, Colón founded The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater company on West 47th street in Manhattan, New York. The company presents Off-Broadway productions onsite and also goes on tour. She was the director of the company and she appeared in the following PRTT productions:[13]

  • The Ox Cart (1966–1967)[14]
  • The Boiler Room (1993)[15]
  • Simpson Street
  • Señora Carrar's Rifles

The play The Ox Cart (La Carreta), written by Puerto Rican dramatist René Marqués, was first produced in 1953. It was directed by Roberto Rodríguez and starred Colón. The success of the play allowed Rodríguez and Colón to form the first permanent Hispanic theatrical group, and for the group to have its own space, Teatro Arena, located in Manhattan on Sixth Avenue between 43rd and 44th street.[16]


National Medal of Arts

In 1993, Colón received an Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater. In 2000, she received the HOLA Raúl Juliá Founders Award, presented by the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA).

Colón's biography, Míriam Colón: Actor and Theater Founder, was written by Mayra Fernandez in 1994.

In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Colón the National Medal of Arts for her contributions as an actress. The citation reads as follows: "Ms. Colón has been a trailblazer in film, television, and theater, and helped open doors for generations of Hispanic actors."[1]

Personal life[edit]

Colón was married to George Paul Edgar from 1966 until his death in 1976.[11] In 1987, she married Fred Valle.

She was an avid collector of ancestral arts including pre-Columbian, tribal African, historic Native American, and other tribal art. She collected Mid-East artifacts, abstract paintings, and modern sculpture. A signed Pablo Picasso sketch in crayon that she owned was auctioned for $6500 on June 16, 2019. At her death, she owned at least six signed movie posters of Al Pacino's Scarface and at least seven signed Scarface soundtrack albums.[17]

Her final years were in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Colón died on March 3, 2017, at the age of 80, in New York City of complications from a pulmonary infection.[18] Among those who paid tribute to her were Rosalba Rolón, Marc Anthony (who she had coached as an actor and briefly appeared with on television), and Lin-Manuel Miranda.[19]



  • In The Summer House (1954)
  • The Innkeepers (1956)
  • The Wrong Way Lightbulb (1969)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Miriam Colón". www.arts.gov.
  2. ^ a b Kelley, Seth (March 4, 2017). "Miriam Colon, Latina Film and Theater Pioneer Known for 'Scarface,' Dies at 80". Varitey. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Miriam Colón". Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  4. ^ "Miriam Colón: pionera de la cultura". El Nuevo Día. March 4, 2017.
  5. ^ Bosworth 1971, p. D5.
  6. ^ Garfield 1980, p. 277.
  7. ^ Moreno 1989, p. 30.
  8. ^ "Danny en 'Coincidencias'… y en San Juan". 31 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Miriam Colon Biography (1945-)". Film Reference Library. Toronto: TIFF Bell Lightbox. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  10. ^ "The Richest Man in Bogota". TV Guide. Vol. 10, no. 24. June 16–22, 1962.
  11. ^ a b Gates, Anita (March 5, 2017). "Miriam Colón, 80, Actress and Founder of Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, Dies". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "Miriam Colon, iconic U.S. Latina movie, theater actress, dies at 80". Daily News. New York City: Daily News, L.P. Associated Press. March 3, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  13. ^ "The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater". Archived from the original on 2016-08-13. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  14. ^ ​The Ox Cart​ at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  15. ^ ​The Boiler Room​ at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  16. ^ Kanellos, Nicolás (2003). Hispanic Literature of the United States: A Comprehensive Reference. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 273.
  17. ^ url=https://www.liveauctioneers.com/search/?keyword=m%C3%ADriam%20col%C3%B3n&sort=-relevance&status=archive
  18. ^ Contreras, Russell (March 3, 2017). "U.S. News: Miriam Colón, Iconic US Latina Movie, Theater Actress, Dies". U.S. News & World Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. News & World Report, L.P. Associated Press. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  19. ^ Rolón, Rosalba (9 March 2017). "Miriam Colón: Opening Doors". American Theatre. Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved 26 December 2022.

External links[edit]