Monday, July 13, 2015

QEPD / RIP Anita Vélez-Mitchell

Anita Vélez-Mitchell at the 2012 HOLA Awards.

We are sad to announce the passing of HOLA awardee and legendary performer, writer and poet, Anita Vélez-Mitchell (February 21, 1916 - July 10, 2015). Born in Vieques, Puerto Rico, she came to New York City when she was twelve. She had a seven-decade career as an artist, and her luminary list of friends and colleagues includes José Ferrer, Salvador Dalí, Ed Sullivan, Tito Puente, Xavier Cugat, Fred Kelly, George Abbott, and Leonard Bernstein, among others. Her lifelong performing career includes "The Ed Sullivan Show", Carnegie Hall, international tours as a solo artist, the 1963 production of West Side Story as Anita and culminated in a video performance as Abuela in April 2015 in the MultiStages production of Comida de P*ta by Desi Moreno-Penson, directed by her granddaughter Lorca Peress. 

She was featured in the two-character award-winning short film Voice of an Angel by Josh Marston (writer-director of María Full of Grace), among numerous TV shows and films. Her poetry is published in Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puerto Rican Women (2012, Scapegoat Press, Latino Book Award Nominee) and she has received numerous writing awards and is a member of the PEN American Center. She is the subject of the multiple award-winning documentary Anita Vélez: Dancing Through Life, by daughter and TV journalist Jane Vélez-Mitchell, and an upcoming documentary Light Years by Claire Panke.

In 2012, her musical Temple of the Souls (a forbidden love story between two teenagers– a young Spaniard girl and a young Taíno boy– set in colonial Puerto Rico) was honored with three HOLA Awards including Outstanding Production, Design, and Special Recognition for its music. Temple of the Souls is a musical collaboration between her, her granddaughters Lorca Peress (book writer, producer, director) and Anika Paris (book writer and co-composer), and co-composer Dean Landon. In 2013, she received the ACE Extraordinary Award for Distinction and Merit, the top honor given by the Association of Latin Entertainment Critics of New York; and in 2012 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Puerto Rican Women. She received the Proclamation from the City of New York in 2006, and has addressed the United Nations General Assembly numerous times to protest the bombing crisis in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

She is survived by her daughters Gloria Vando Hickok and Jane Vélez-Mitchell; grandchildren Lorca Peress, Paul Peress, Anika Paris; and great-granddaughter Nicole Elizabeth Peress. Her children and their families will hold a private cremation ceremony this week, but a date for a public memorial to honor Anita in September will be announced soon. Anita loved life, beauty, the mambo, and all the arts. She was a vegetarian and lover of animals. To learn more about Anita Vélez-Mitchell and her legacy, visit the Temple of the Souls website.

Taino-ti, Anita Vélez-Mitchell

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