15 Things You Didn’t Know and That Will Surprise You about María Félix
Few Mexicans have been as extraordinary as this great actress from Sonora, whose presence revolutionized one of the most spectacular periods in Mexican cinema, its Golden Age. Her talent and beauty were never as outstanding as her strength, poise and approach to life. Here are some interesting tidbits about her.
1. Her full name was María de los Ángeles Félix Güereña, and she was born in Álamos, Sonora, on April 8, 1914. Her mother, Josefina Güereña, was the daughter of silversmiths, and her father, Bernardo Félix, was born in the Yaqui Valley. María had 15 siblings, three of whom died.
2. After divorcing her first husband, Enrique Álvarez, she went to work as a secretary to a plastic surgeon. He used her as an example to his patients of how lovely they could look. “It was a fun and honorable job, because I didn’t harm anyone with those white lies.”
3. María Félix had a lock of gray hair –like showgirl Tongolele–, passed down to her by her father. She only allowed it to appear in the movie Doña Bárbara and concealed it in others movies and in photos.
4. She got into the movies purely by chance. One day, María was walking downtown, and a man asked her if she wouldn’t like to be an actress. He was an engineer –and later director–by the name of Fernando Palacios. He encouraged her to get into the profession in a big way. She was in 47 movies.
5. Producers wanted to call her Diana del Mar or Marcia Maris, but she insisted on her real name: María de los Ángeles Félix. Because it was so long, she agreed to use just María Félix.
6. She debuted in El peñón de las ánimas (The Rock of Souls), opposite Jorge Negrete. The pair hated each other from the get go. While rehearsing a dance, Jorge asked her: “I’m curious, who did you sleep with to get the starring role?” “You’ve been in the business longer,” she answered, “So you must know who you have to sleep with to be a star.” Years later, Jorge Negrete would be the actress’ third husband.
7. María Félix played the protagonist in Doña Bárbara, because novelist Rómulo Gallegos was infatuated with her. He met her at a luncheon in Club Chapultepec. "Here is my Doña Bárbara!" he said. Ever since that movie, she has been called “La Doña”
8. Before “María bonita”, Agustín Lara, her second husband, composed the song: “Saca los nardos, morena, una noche de desvelo”. Because it was dedicated to her, the song says: “Saca los nardos morena, saca los nardos, que hay luz de la mañana en tus ojazos” (literally, Take out the tuberoses, bronze woman, take out the tuberoses, because there’s morning light in your great big eyes). And on their wedding night, in El Papagayo, a hotel that no longer exists, in Acapulco, Agustín composed the famous song.
9. María suspected Lara of being a cocaine addict. One day she found a piece of paper with white powder on it in the bathroom, possible confirmation of her suspicions. She was both shocked and curious, so she tried a little and waited for the reaction, which never happened. It was sulfathiazole powder, used to clean cuts.
10. The home María Félix had in Tlalpan around 1948, known as Catipoato, had nine miles of grounds, 600 fruit trees, 80 rattlesnakes that Diego Rivera sent from Oaxaca and 14 dogs, mongrels she had found in the street. Eighteen employees worked on the grounds alone. She moved in when she married Jorge Negrete.
11. "With me, he didn’t have time to be fabulous, or terrible or generous. He went when I was getting to know him," “La Doña” said of Jorge Negrete, because he died a year after their wedding.
12. Diego Rivera was another of María’s beaus. “He loved me hopelessly for nearly ten years.” Almost every day he would send her cards with drawings of toad-frogs and jokes. He dubbed her the Holy Virgin of Catipoato and founded the Marifeliana religion, of which he was the Pope.
13. The last time María Félix worked as an actress was in the soap opera La Constitución. After that, she focused her life on her stable of horses, which got to be the most famous in France, winning derbies in France and England. Her horses had Mexican names: María Bonita, Mayab, Zapata, and from her movies: Doña Bárbara, Doña Diabla. “But the names that gave me the best luck were Chingo and Verga”, she said.
14. Another song that María Félix inspired was the French classic “Je l'aime a mourir”, originally a poem Francis Cabrel wrote for her. Other songs she inspired include “Ella”, by José Alfredo Jiménez, and “María de todas las Marías”, by Juan Gabriel.
15. María Félix died on April 8, 2002, the very day she turned 88.