Cecilia Alvear, a retired NBC News producer who was a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, died on Friday at home in Santa Monica after a recurrence of breast cancer. She was first diagnosed with the disease 23 years earlier. Her passing was announced by her longtime partner, George Lewis, the retired NBC News correspondent in Los Angeles. Alvear was 77 years old.
Born in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Alvear was hired as the first Latino news assistant at KNBC in 1971. In 1982, NBC News sent Alvera to run its Mexico City bureau and head up war coverage in Central America. After returning to Los Angeles, she was a producer in NBC's bureau here. She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1988-89 and president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a group she helped to found, from 2000 to 2002. She retired from NBC in 2007.
"Cecilia was a pioneer who helped open the door for many Latina journalists," writes California journalist Veronica Villafañe, also a former president of NAHJ, at her website Media Moves. "When NBC News hired Cecilia to run its bureau in Mexico City in 1982, she became the first Latina news producer at any of the three major TV networks, covering wars in Central America, unrest in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, and earthquakes in Mexico City, El Salvador and Ecuador. She also produced interviews with Fidel Castro in Cuba. Cecilia was also the first Latina selected for a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University in 1988."
Cecilia frequently returned to the Galápagos Islands to help out the elementary school founded by her father as the first public school on the archipelago. She started the school’s first computer lab and helped local women create a business cooperative that bears her name.
She also hosted workshops for journalists in the islands and began a blog about news from Galápagos...
There aren’t enough words to express how fortunate I was to know Cecilia. Throughout the almost 20 years of friendship, I’ve witnessed her kindness, generosity, help and support – not just to me, but to many others.
Former LA Times Latin America reporter Anne-Marie O’Connor said in the LAT story that Alvear was “a true pioneer as a professional woman in journalism.”
“I met Cecilia in 1982 when she was sent, as an NBC producer at the height of the Cold War, to run the war coverage of NBC in Latin America,” O’Connor said. “At the time it was rare to even meet a female producer, much less an Ecuadorian-born Latina who spoke English with an accent. Cecilia broke the mold.”
Brandon Benavides, the current NAHJ president, wrote to members that "Cecilia touched the lives of many aspiring journalists and journalists making their way up the career ladder.:
Sunday night's NBC Nightly News show ended in memory of Alvear.