TMZ is reporting that Peña, who was 55, died from "cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol," according to her death certificate. The site reports the actress had the disease for several months before she died.
TMZ also reports that in the time leading up to her death, Peña suffered from "acute gastrointestinal bleeding hours before her death," which eventually caused her heart to stop.
Peña, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, had an acting career that spanned nearly four decades, from the late 1970s to just before her death. Her breakthrough role was in the 1987 Ritchie Valens biopic, La Bamba.
Equally successful in film and television, she held roles in films like Jacob's Ladder and Rush Hour and, most recently, made a guest appearance on Modern Family as the mother of Sofia Vergara's character. She was also the star of the first season of Matador on the El Rey Network.
Peña's fans and costars alike were shocked by her sudden passing and flooded social media with an outpouring of love for the late star.
"I am stunned and heartbroken, just found out about the passing of my friend Elizabeth Pena," her La Bamba costar, Lou Diamond Phillips, tweeted. "She was such a Life Force it's hard to believe."
I am stunned and heartbroken, just found out about the passing of my friend Elizabeth Pena. She was such a Life Force it's hard to believe.— Lou Diamond Phillips (@LouDPhillips) October 16, 2014
In a tribute article, Variety Latino called Peña "the most underrated Latina in Hollywood," saying, "Elizabeth Peña was a rare breed. The kind of actress that didn't seek or crave the limelight, but rather focused on "the craft." You'd have to, in order to enjoy the type of career she had."
Our heart goes out to Elizabeth Peña's family, friends, costars and fans during this extremely difficult time.
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