While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Teresa Palomo Acosta
Guadalupe “Lupe” Moreno Ontiveros (1942–2012).
Guadalupe “Lupe” Moreno Ontiveros (1942–2012) at the Festival Internatcional de Cine in Guadalajara in 2008. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107

ONTIVEROS, GUADALUPE MORENO [LUPE] (1942–2012). Guadalupe “Lupe” Moreno Ontiveros, film and television actress, was born on September 17, 1942, in El Paso to Luz Castañon and Juan Moreno, Mexican immigrants. Her parents were successful proprietors of a tortilla factory and two restaurants and enabled Guadalupe to grow up in a middle-class household. She graduated from El Paso High School, and received a bachelor of science degree in sociology from Texas Woman’s University in 1964.

Guadalupe Moreno married Elias Ontiveros about 1966. After settling with him in California, she pursued an eighteen-year-long career as a social worker and reared three sons. In the 1970s, while considering other career options, she answered an ad seeking movie extras. This opportunity led Ontiveros to enroll in acting classes and to pursue an acting career for the remainder of her life.

Over approximately thirty-six years, Ontiveros appeared in more than forty films and in more than fifty television roles. She originated the role of the mother in the Los Angeles theatrical production of Zoot Suit and also played this role on Broadway and in the 1981 film version. One of her important early film roles was as a seamstress and maid in the 1983 film El Norte. Ontiveros considered the movie her favorite.

Throughout her career, the actress struggled against being typecast as a maid. By her own count, she played this role more than 150 times both on screen and onstage. Ontiveros’s difficulty in overcoming “racial stereotypes” of Mexican Americans greatly limited her acting opportunities in Hollywood. In 2003 she told Latino Leaders magazine: 

I speak good English; I’m an educated person. But whenever I interviewed—and I spoke English just like I’m speaking now—I wouldn’t get the role. They couldn’t see how a woman who looks like me—indigenous—could ever play somebody of stature, certainly not a professor or a judge. No! She has to be a maid; she had to clean my toilet. 

At the same time, Ontiveros drew satisfaction from her capacity to portray a more complete version of the Latina maid. She declared in 2002 interviews with the New York Times and the LA Weekly that she had been “proud to represent those hands that labor in this country. I’ve given every maid I’ve ever portrayed soul and heart. No matter how much I resent the stupidity that is written into them … my humor survives in these maids. I’m very proud of them.”

Ontiveros achieved notable recognition playing Carmen Garcia in Real Women Have Curves (2002). At the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, she shared a Special Jury Prize for dramatic acting in the film with her co-star America Ferrera. She also won the National Board Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Beverly in Chuck & Buck, a 2000 film in which she was finally able to play a role not written for a Latina. In 2005 Ontiveros received an Emmy nomination for her work with the popular television series Desperate Housewives. She was especially known for her portrayal of Yolanda Saldívar in Selena (1997), the film depecting Tejana musical crossover legend Selena Quintanilla Perez. In 2010 she received a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. 

Guadalupe “Lupe” Moreno Ontiveros (1942–2012).
Image of Guadalupe “Lupe” Moreno Ontiveros (1942–2012), from her funeral program. Image made available on the Internet by Lalo Alcaraz and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107

Committed to the advancement of her community, Ontiveros served as a founder of the Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles. She also promoted higher education and health education initiatives aimed at the Latino community and supported HIV/AIDS prevention, the rights of the disabled, and the prevention of domestic violence.

Guadalupe Moreno Ontiveros died from liver cancer in Whittier, California, on July 26, 2012. At her death, Edward James Olmos, who appeared with her in Zoot Suit, recalled the lasting contributions Ontiveros achieved. He stated, “She was part of the evolutionary process of the art form of Latino storytelling in the last 30-plus years. She was one of the true pioneers of the Latin artistic movement in theater, film, and television.” She was buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.


“Actress Lupe Ontiveros dies of cancer at 69” CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/actress-lupe-ontiveros-dies-of-cancer-at-69/), accessed October 10, 2016. Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2012. Lupe Ontiveros (1942–2012), IMDB.com http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0648913/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1), accessed November 10, 2016.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Teresa Palomo Acosta, "ONTIVEROS, GUADALUPE MORENO [LUPE] ," accessed July 03, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fon10.

Uploaded on November 22, 2016. Modified on March 8, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...