Alma's debut in Luis Valdez's American film classic Zoot Suit (1981) launched a career that in, in 2013, led to her induction into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Shortly after Zoot Suit, Australian director Fred Schedpisi cast Alma in his American film debut, Barbarosa (1982) with Willie Nelson and Gary Busey. This performance was followed by Under Fire (1983) with Gene Hackman, Ed Harris and Jean Louis Trintignant; Born in East L.A. (1987) with Cheech Marin; For Greater Glory (2010) with Andy Garcia and Oscar Isaac; Strike One (2015) with Danny Trejo; Stevie D (2015) with Hal Linden; Cake (2015) with Jennifer Aniston and Adriana Barraza; and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) among others.
She has also voiced roles in the award-winning documentaries Maria's Story (1990), The Panama Deception (1992), 500 Nations (1995), and Food Chains (2014). Her extensive television performances include roles in the Peabody Award-winning dramas The Bridge (F/X, 2013) Season 1 and Corridos: Tales of Passion & Revolution (PBS, 1987).
A consummate stage actor, Alma has over 100 credits, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre and the Mexican and European stages. Luis Valdez - founder and artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, one of the most influential political theatre groups of the 1960's and 70's - first discovered Alma in 1978. She has been the lead actress in many of his most important projects - a collaboration that has spanned over 30 years.
Alma made her Broadway debut in In the Summer House directed by Joanne Akalaitis - featuring Dianne Wiest, Frances Conroy and Liev Schreiber - in a performance that garnered excellent reviews. She has performed in the U.S., Mexico and Europe in venues such as the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Joyce Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Berkeley Repertory, Sundance Theatre Institute, San Diego Repertory, Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival, South Coast Repertory, Arizona Theatre Company, Pennsylvania Stage, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Teatro Juan Ruiz De Alarcon (Mexico City), Teatro Calderon (Zacatecas, Mexico), Teatro Greco (Taormina, Italy), Castello Sforesco (Milan, Italy), Festival De Sant Arcangelo (Italy), Teatro Romano (Fiesolo, Italy), Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany) and Neiuwe Scene (Antwerp, Belgium), among others.
Alma holds a Ph.D. in Drama from Stanford University, an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Theatre from Whittier College. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Centro Universitario De Teatro (CUT) at the National University of Mexico and with master directors/teachers, Hector Mendoza, Luis De Tavira, Duncan Ross, Lee Strasberg, Jerzi Grotowski, Arianne Mnouchkine, Anna Deavere Smith, Patsy Rodenbury, and Augusto Boal.