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NBC reporter, Latina journalism pioneer Cecilia Alvear dies

This Jan. 15, 2006 photo provided by George Lewis shows former NBC news reporter and Latina journalism pioneer Cecilia Alvear, who was a founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, at home in Santa Monica, Calif. Alvear died on Friday, April 21, 2017. She was 77. (George Lewis via AP)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Cecilia Alvear, who fought for Latino inclusion in newsrooms and reached unprecedented heights for a Hispanic woman in journalism in a decades-long career with NBC news, has died, her partner said Tuesday.

Alvear, who also served as president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, died at her home in Santa Monica after suffering from breast cancer that recurred in 2012, her longtime partner George Lewis said. Alvear was 77.

A native of Ecuador born in the Galapagos on the island of San Cristobal, Alvear came to the U.S. in 1965 and worked in a congressman’s office until getting a job as a TV news production assistant in 1971.

At the time, roles for women in journalism were few and roles for Latinos were even fewer. As she moved through various jobs in local television in Los Angeles, she was often the only member of either group working in news production. But she fought to make sure that the environment would change.

“She was a relentless campaigner for more diversity in newsrooms,” Lewis told the Los Angeles Times.

In 1982, NBC News tapped her to run its Mexico City bureau. From there she covered wars and revolutions in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and she produced several interviews with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“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,” Anne-Marie O’Connor an ex-LA Times reporter, told the paper. “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.”

Alvear never graduated from college, but she completed a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1989.

In 1994 while on assignment in Mexico, she learned she had breast cancer for the first time. She was free and clear of the disease until it returned 18 years later.

She remained with NBC until her retirement in 2007.

She is survived by Lewis, four sisters, and two half-brothers.

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