- Attended a private British school in Bogotá, and took acting lessons to help overcome her shyness.
- Studied advertising in college.
- Received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her first film, Maria Full of Grace, in which she played a Colombian drug mule.
- Was the first Colombian and third Hispanic actress to receive a nomination for a Best Actress Oscar.
- When she moved to New York, she was detained by customs on suspicion of being a drug mule.
- New York stage debut was in the Frog & Peach Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's King John.
- Met her husband, a lighting technician, on the set of Maria Full of Grace.
- 2005, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Actress: Nominee
- 2005, Independent Spirit Awards — Best Female Lead: Winner
- 2004, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Nominee
- 2004, Oscar — Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Nominee
- 2004, Berlin Film Festival — Silver Bear for Best Actress: Winner
- David Elwell — Husband
- Attended Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia; Lee Strasberg Institute, New York, NY (2004)