Actress Elizabeth Peña's Death Caused By Alcohol Abuse

By Shawn Dwyer 10/23/14

The La Bamba actress died from cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol.

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Actress Elizabeth Peña, who played the mother of Ritchie Valens' first born in the hit biopic La Bamba, died of complications due to alcohol abuse, according to a report by TMZ.

Peña, 55, died on Oct. 14 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. As reported by People magazine, her death certificate said that she had "cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol, as well as cardiopulmonary arrest, cardiogenic shock and acute gastrointestinal bleeding," according to the Los Angeles County Coroner.

At the time of Peña's death, her manager, Gina Rugolo, said that the New Jersey-born actress died of natural causes following a brief illness. But the coroner's report painted a much grimmer picture of the actress, whose struggles with alcohol were not well known.

"My family is heartbroken," said her nephew Mario-Francisco Robles in a written tribute to his aunt in the Latino Review the day after her death. "There's now a void that will never be filled. All we can do now is remember your sharp sense of humor, your endless hunger for life, and your never ending pursuit of happiness."

Peña first rose to prominence in Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), before achieving stardom as the first girlfriend of Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) in La Bamba (1987). She went on to starring roles in notable films like Jacob's Ladder (1990), Lone Star (1996), and Rush Hour (1998).

She is survived by her husband, Hans Rolla, and two children.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.