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Pioneering Journalist Cecilia Alvear Pushed For More Latinos in Newsrooms

Cecilia Alvear, a pioneer in journalism who worked for years for NBC, was remembered by friends for the work she did to bring more Latinos into newsrooms.

Alvear died Friday from breast cancer. She was 77.

Cecilia Alvear, a pioneering Latina journalist, died at age 77. George Lewis

Alvear was a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and was inducted into the NAHJ Hall of Fame in 2007. According to the Los Angeles Times, she worked for several area NBC stations until 1982, when NBC News hired her to be its Mexico City bureau chief.

She was the first Latina to hold that job and also was the first Latina selected for a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University in 1988, according to the Latino media industry website "Media Moves."

"There aren't enough words to express how fortunate I was to know Cecilia," Veronica Villafañe, editor of "Media Moves," wrote of Alvear. "Throughout the almost 20 years of friendship, I've witnessed her kindness, generosity, help and support - not just to me, but to many others. So, it is with great sadness that I write about the passing of such an exceptional individual."

Brandon Benavides, NAHJ president, said he had known Alvear since first joining the organization as a student member. He said she was "always there for me and she helped guide me. She was a mentor and a friend." He was one of the aspiring journalists and working journalists she inspired, he said.

"I remember she'd pull me aside at (NAHJ) conventions" to talk about journalism and NAHJ matters.

"Even though I was young she treated me with with respect … She said I had a spark and I was the next generation of NAHJ leaders and I felt that spark grow into a fire and I grew into a leadership role," he said.

Ernest R. Sotomayor, dean of student affairs and director of Latin American initiatives at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, referred to Alvear as a "giant of our industry" in a memorial Facebook post.

"She was principled, intelligent, strong, had lots of compassion, but cared deeply about making journalism more honest by making it more diverse. I'm grateful to have had her as a friend," Sotomayor wrote.

Journalist Ray Suarez bid "a sad goodbye to my buddy for 30 years" in a Facebook post.

"I'm so said. I will miss her so," said Suarez, a former NBC News Hour anchor and Al Jazeera America journalist.

Benavides said one of the last Facebook messages Alvear sent him was a reminder to hold a memorial for former LA Times editor, columnist and reporter George Ramos, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and to send condolences to the family of PBS News anchor Gwen Ifill when she died.

"Those were the last messages she sent me," Benavides said.

Alvear is survived by her longtime partner, former NBC News correspondent George Lewis, as well as her siblings.

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