María Félix is THE greatest diva of Mexican cinema. The actress, born in Sonora, not only captivated artists such as Diego Rivera and Agustín Lara (who composed the classic ballad “María Bonita” for her) with her beauty but also became one of the top stars of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.
The actress starred in 47 films and worked for the most prestigious directors in Mexico and Europe, among them Luis Buñuel, Emilio Fernández, and Jean Cocteau, the latter said that “her beauty is so intense that it hurts.”
Félix was much more than just a gorgeous face. In addition to her talent, as well as the fashion icon she became by inspiring luxury brands such as Cartier (the French house that designed jewelry, especially for her), the diva made her way with her strong and empowering character in an environment dominated by Mexican machismo. Both on the big screen and in real life, the actress proved that she could stand on her own and did not need a man to excel.
At the age of 17, she married Enrique Álvarez Alatorre, a salesman for the Max Factor cosmetics firm, with whom she had her only son, Enrique Álvarez Félix, who was also an actor. The marriage did not last long, and Maria decided to divorce, even though she had to face the critics of the time who saw divorced women in a bad light. It was this situation that made her move to Mexico City with her firstborn to start a new life.
From the beginning of her career, she made it clear that she would set the rules; this became evident when Mexican director Fernando Palacios asked her if she would like to be an actress: “if I feel like it, I will do it. But when I want to. And it will be through the big door,” she said.
Her first opportunity came in 1942 when she recorded with Jorge Negrete, El peñón de las ánimas, but undoubtedly the role that brought her to international fame and placed her in the status of Femme Fatale was the film Doña Bárbara, where she played a temperamental, arrogant woman who did not need men for anything.
This film gave birth to her famous nickname “La Doña,” and similar roles came into her life, which was just an extension of how she led her life.
The actress was so self-confident that she did not mind the times in which she lived surrounded by “Mexican machos,” who were the ultimate romantic heroes in movies of those years.
“La Doña” married three times, and had romances with renowned artists like Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others. “I chose them all. That’s why I could leave them when I wanted to. Fight for a man? There are so many!” she would say.
The diva always expressed her discontent with misogyny and incited women to fight for their rights:
“In a man’s world like this, I want to warn you to watch out. Here comes the revenge of women. When we are the majority, we are going to rule. And to rule, we have to be informed, learn, and prepared. That is why women must educate themselves,” she said.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva.