Carmen Beltrán  (b. 1905, d. 2000)
Carmen Celia Beltrán Holy Family Catholic
Carmen Celia Beltrán became an intellectual leader of the Mexican American community in Tucson. She wrote poetry, plays, essays, and radio and religious dramas which were presented in the Holy Family Church in Tucson from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Region: Tucson and Southern Arizona
Theme: Women in the Arts

Born in Durango, Mexico, Carmen Beltrán immigrated to Texas with her family in the early 1920s. She graduated from San Antonio High School in 1924 and then began teaching Spanish and working for a Spanish publishing firm. She also wrote articles for Spanish-language journals in San Antonio and participated in radio programs. During this time, she was married briefly and gave birth to two daughters.

In 1942, Beltrán moved to Tucson for health reasons. She quickly became engaged with the Mexican American cultural community, writing articles for the Spanish-language newspaper, El Tucsonense and producing a weekly radio program called "Theatre of the Air." This Spanish-language program contained religious themes which were approved by the local clergy and authorized by Catholic Bishop Daniel J. Gercke. Beltrán also wrote plays that were presented on the radio and at the Holy Family Church, with the assistance of women from the Santa Teresita Club.

Carmen Beltrán's active professional life in Tucson included editing the monthly magazine Arizona for six years and writing columns for the newspaper La Voz for seven years. In addition, she wrote for English-language papers, such as the Tucson Daily Reporter. Her jobs included being a secretary in a law firm, acting as an interpreter for the Industrial Commission of Arizona, and working as a translator.

In 1952, Carmen Celia Beltrán created the historical pageant, México Ayer Y Hoy to display typical aspects of the Aztec, colonial and independent periods of Mexico's history. This drama was presented on September 15 in the auditorium of the Tucson High School and later in other theaters. Beltrán wrote the script, directed the production, and designed the costumes which were sewn by members of the cultural community. For all of her activities, the Mexican American Unity Council honored Beltran with the Humanitarian Award. The city of Tucson gave her the Amistad plaque for her work with the radio station KUAT.

The Holy Family Catholic Church where Beltrán created theatrical productions is on 338 W. University Blvd. in Tucson. Still serving as a parish church, it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public.

For more information on Carmen Celia Beltrán, see Patricia Preciado Martin's Songs My Mother Sang to Me: An Oral History of Mexican American Women, (University of Arizona Press, 1992).

Photo Credits:
Carmen Celia Beltrán - Courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tucson


1225 W. Main Street, Suite 101, Box #159, Mesa, AZ 85201 • 480-834-3833  •  © 2020 Arizona Women's Heritage Trail