Myrna Salazar changed Chicago theater stages for the better

Myrna Salazar, co-founder and executive director of Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, speaks as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot listens during a press conference about “Open Culture,” a plan to bring back cultural events after they were cancelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the Goodman Theatre in the Loop, May 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Before Myrna Salazar sat down last year to talk about the Destinos International Latino Theater Festival with us, we were told we’d be dazzled: “Just wait. You’re about to meet an amazing woman.”

And that we did.

The Puerto Rican native had a welcoming, commanding and regal presence as we made our way from The Goodman Theatre to Petterino’s. At the restaurant, Salazar passionately spoke about her decades-long mission — giving Latinos more representation in the arts — and the Latino theater festival’s contributions toward that goal.

“These are our stories, our own narratives and our own experiences. They aren’t influenced by a white director who says you have to look a certain way or have an accent when you speak English,” Salazar told us.



Without Salazar, audiences may never have had seen productions about female mariachi musicians fighting against machismo traditions, or a couple pondering the color of their unborn baby’s skin and how it could affect his or her life.

Salazar died Wednesday, days after celebrating her 75th birthday, leaving Chicago with a much more robust arts scene than when she came here as a 10-year-old girl from Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

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The trailblazer will be remembered for shattering countless glass ceilings, uplifting Latino talent and fighting to ensure they had opportunities and incentives to stay in Chicago.

Salazar, who was crowned queen of the city’s first Puerto Rican Day Parade in 1966, was known for her sense of humor and for being “that old school Latina who doesn’t ever leave the house without full makeup on.”

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Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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