In the tiny village of Baquerizo Moreno, Cecilia Alvear took her first steps in life among the blue-footed boobies, sea lions and iguanas of her Galapagos Island birthplace. From the simplest of beginnings, the Ecuadorian native has created an extraordinary and accomplished life.
Nicknamed “la lectora loca” (crazy reader) as a young girl for her love of books, Cecilia’s curiosity about the world led her to immigrate to the United States in 1965. Over time, she says, she “fell” into television work. Named in 2000 by Hispanic Business magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S., today Cecilia is an accomplished news producer — and former Mexico City bureau chief — for NBC Network News. As a trailblazing journalist, she has witnessed courageous, horrible and triumphant moments in history.
But in 1994, Cecilia faced a personal trauma when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy during which 18 of her excised lymph nodes were found to be cancerous. Cecilia delved into research, querying family, friends and Internet support groups. When she learned that bone marrow transplantation is a potentially effective treatment for some breast cancer patients, Cecilia contacted City of Hope. Determined to do everything she could to “purge” the cancer from her body, Cecilia underwent an autologous stem cell transplant in August 1994.
“It humbles me that I have been so privileged to receive such superb medical care,” says Cecilia. “I thank City of Hope for giving me extra years, and I thank my sisters and friends for their loving support.”
While continuing to produce news at NBC, Cecilia also uses her skills to help others. She is an advocate for Latino journalists and serves on the board of Padres contra El Cáncer, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of Latino children who have cancer. She is also former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She returns annually to the Galapagos, visiting students at the Alejandro Alvear school (built by her father) where she has established a computer lab. “The future of the Galapagos is in the hands of these children,” says Cecilia, who hopes that with enhanced educational opportunities, the students will become effective guardians of this world treasure.