Chicago icon Myrna Salazar, co-founder and executive director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, has died
Myrna Salazar, co-founder and executive director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance died Thursday, August 3, 2022, two weeks after celebrating her 75th birthday.
Salazar will forever be a Chicago legend, leaving a legacy as a trailblazing Latina who broke glass ceilings throughout her career. Until his dying day, Salazar advocated for equity and representation for Latino artists in mainstream media and Chicago’s live theater stages.
“It is with profound sadness and shock that we share with you the sudden passing of our beloved Myrna Salazar,” said Marty Castro, Chairman of the Board of CLATA and President and CEO of Castro Synergies, LLC. “To say Myrna was a force of nature would be an understatement. She was a leader, advocate, changemaker and strong voice for the Latin American community on issues ranging from education to the arts. and will always be a part of our family and we mourn his loss. CLATA is part of his legacy and we will continue to work in his memory to ensure his continued success.
Carlos Tortolero, President, CEO and Founder of the National Museum of Mexican Art, said, “Myrna was an incredible once in a lifetime super arts activist. In just a few years, she made the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance a cultural force. in Chicago, across the country and throughout Latin America. She is truly a Chicago cultural treasure and will be missed by so many.”
Originally from Puerto Rico and raised in Chicago, Salazar began her career as an economic development specialist at the West Town Economic Development Corporation. In this capacity, she has generated over $10 million in housing procurement and business development from the private and public sectors. During this time, she completed a two-year fellowship with the National Economic Development Council and was appointed by then-Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne to the Chicago Board of Education where she served for five years.
Salazar was a marketing and advertising expert with over 35 years of experience. She was the founder and president of Salazar & Navas Talent Agency Inc., where she successfully secured contracts for over 300 professional actors, models and spokespersons for a clientele of over 50 Fortune 500 companies. She boasted with proud to have nurtured and launched television/film careers for several local actors working on both coasts like Justina Machado, Aimee Garcia, Raul Esparza and Nadine Velazquez, to name but a few.
From 2007 to 2011, Salazar served as director of development and marketing at the International Latin Cultural Center of Chicago (ILCC), which produces the annual Chicago Latin Film Festival (CLFF), among other programs.
In 2016, Salazar co-founded and became executive director of the Chicago Latino Alliance (CLATA), a non-profit organization launched to help propel the city’s local Latino theater community to greater heights. She co-founded CLATA as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with Chicago’s three most prominent Latino arts organizations: National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), International Latino Cultural Center (ILCC ) and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA).
CLATA’s flagship program is Destinos, the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. Now in its fifth year, Destinos is an annual, city-wide festival featuring Chicago’s Latin artists and theater companies alongside top Latin artists from across the United States and Latin America. The 5th Destinos takes place from September 14 to October 16, 2022 at locations throughout the city.
Additionally, under Salazar’s leadership, CLATA provided local Latino theater groups with ongoing organizational and financial support and worked diligently to create a permanent home for Latino theater artists in Chicago.
Fittingly, Salazar was immortalized on a Chicago stage and featured in The New York Times, as the inspiration for the character “Myrna,” the Chicago Queen’s first Puerto Rican Day Parade in 1966, crowned in Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, in the 2017 Teatro Vista. hit musical La Havana Madrid by Chicago theater artist Sandra Delgado.
Salazar has received numerous awards and honors from numerous organizations. Most recently, in June 2022, she was named a Sor Juana Award recipient by the National Museum of Mexican Art for her outstanding impact in Chicago’s arts and culture industry. Other accolades include recognition from the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, ASPIRA Illinois, Latin Fashion Week, Teatro Vista and, in 2019, in commemoration of Women’s History Month, the Outstanding Woman’s Award for Excellence in Music and Theater Arts by the Honorable Dorothy Brown, former Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, among others.
Salazar had a bachelor’s degree from the Regent External Program at the State University of New York and an associate’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in broadcast communication and arts management. She also completed a two-year seminar series on Capacity Building and Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. She has served on the board of Choose Chicago and the League of Chicago Theaters and is a member of Mayor Lightfoot’s Culture and Arts Committee.
Salazar is survived by his children Yvette (Steve) Sharp, Iliana (Greg) Romero, his stepson Christopher Dovalina, his grandchildren Ariela Romero, Andrés Romero, Gabriela Bibbens, and Gabe Sharp, his mother Carmen Rosado Feliciano, his Sister Carmen Salazar. She is survived by her first husband, Florentino (Rosellen) Mitchell and predeceased by her second husband, Cesar Dovalina, former owner of the Spanish-language newspaper, La Raza, and La Margarita restaurants.
Information on funeral services is forthcoming.