María Félix, an icon of feminism, modernity and Mexican cinema

This content was published on April 08, 2022 – 14:27

Monica Rubalcava

Mexico City, Apr 8 (EFE) .- “When women are the majority, we will rule,” the iconic Mexican actress María Félix announced as a prediction in 1996. Two decades after her death and 108 after her birth, her words resound in current feminist movements and, despite its contradictory figure, it continues to be a benchmark for emancipation.

“It is a bit confusing to think of María Félix as this figure of the indomitable woman, strong and with an unusual character, and then seeing the work in her films,” screenwriter and film critic Arantxa Luna told Efe in an interview.

From her point of view, that brave and determined woman generated a particular contrast with the characters she played in the cinema in which she sometimes represented women who were victims of a macho and post-revolutionary Mexico.

“It was part of this configuration of women in the sense that, in the end, almost all of her characters were governed by certain stereotypes that had to maintain an imaginary of women,” she deepens.


María Félix died on her birthday, thus contributing to her legend a little more of the “magic” that enveloped her during a life full of luxury, glamour, tragedies, strong convictions and the mystery of her unparalleled presence on screen.

Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990, would write about the two times in which La Doña was born, the first when her mother gave birth to her in Sonora in 1914, and the second when she decided to invent herself.

Agustín Lara showed the most tender face of Félix by immortalizing her in the song “María Bonita”.

Diego Rivera painted her suggestive with a transparent white dress.

And in an interview with Elena Poniatowska, she defined herself as the representation of “the successful Mexican, who doesn’t let go.”

“She was a woman who wanted to make her life a work of art. I think the public still has a lot of reverence for her. She has always been part of the collective imagination of Mexico, a cultural reference, she is a figure as alive as few. I think she continues to amaze that fierceness and autonomy that she projected, ”the director of the Morelia International Film Festival, Daniela Michel, tells Efe.


That prediction that Félix made in 1996 on the television program “La tocada”, also an actress Verónica Castro, now resounds in current feminist movements.

In said interview, the actress expressed her discontent towards the injustices that Mexican women experienced, futurized the creation of laws in defense of women, condemned male violence and assured that machismo was “the worst of evils”.

From there, he announced the “revenge of women” and encouraged them not to leave anyone behind, to be autonomous and to prepare themselves, in addition to revealing difficult events in their own lives.

In the midst of such a closed-minded and misogynistic community, Félix was masculinized by herself and by others, since the only way to be a strong woman was to act as much like a man as possible.

She herself said: “I am a woman with the heart of a man”, referring to the fact that she did what her brothers did.

“She was equated with a male entity,” reflects Michel.

While Luna adds: “To break through, women had to adopt strategies of masculinized attitudes.”


The question of whether the performances of María – who acted in 47 films, including “La Enamorada” (1946) – were good or bad is left aside when talking about her presence on screen.

“More than a great actress, she was a great presence, and in the movies it doesn’t matter so much if you have that presence. She had total control of her voice, a very strong voice. She was extraordinarily beautiful and when you see her on screen practically all the characters that appear around her they vanish,” explains Michel.

After working with directors such as Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, Ismael Rodríguez or Jean Renoir, among many others, his film legacy endures and has even been recognized by figures such as Martín Scorsese.

“I feel that characters like María Félix, Dolores del Río and other women paid for the emancipation of women on a professional level. I will always think that there is no absolute feminism, but I think that seeing these women on the big screen can be inspiring for many women today,” says Luna. EFE



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