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The First Latina to Conquer Hollywood Essay

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Hollywood has not always been accepting of Latinas. Current stars Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes, and Penélope Cruz follow in the footsteps of pioneering Dolores Del Rio. Lauded as “The Princess of Mexico", Del Rio was a star whose allure captivated legendary figures Orson Wells, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, and Frida Kahlo. Fast friend Marlene Dietrich labeled Dolores, "The most beautiful woman in Hollywood. She has better legs than Dietrich and better cheekbones than Garbo". A beauty that lead to wild rumors of an orchid petal diet, or that Del Rio slept 16 hours a day to maintain her loveliness. Sadly, in a fundamental way, Del Rio’s talent became a prisoner of her splendor.

Del Rio’s life was not always glamorous, born in Durango, Mexico, in 1905, she was the only daughter of Jesus Jacques and Antonia Lopez-Negrete. Her father was the director of the Bank of Durango, but the family lost their wealth in the Mexican revolution. A forced relocation to Mexico City, when Dolores was five, quickly reestablished the familial standing in society. Little Dolores studied at prestigious Liceo Franco Mexicano convent (taught by French nuns), gaining a lifelong passion for literature, dance, and art.

A debutante’s life came at a price; for the 16 year-old Dolores it was an arranged, loveless marriage to lawyer Jaime Del Rio. Jaime was 18 years her senior, his family one of the oldest and most influential in Mexico. Their wealth allowed for a European honeymoon, where they were invited to dine with the Spanish Royal family. The honeymoon morphed into a three year romp, with Dolores delighting in voice and dance lessons at stately Madrid and Paris schools. In 1921, the couple returned to Mexico City, Jaime intent on advancing his career whil...


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...e best dramatic female performance in Del Rio’s honor. Vestiges of Del Rio remain in America, such as a statue at Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles, honoring ethnic leading ladies of the cinema, featuring Del Rio with Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge and Anna May Wong. Del Rio also has a star on the iconic Walk of Fame, located on 1630 Vine Street.

Author Salvador Novo gave a perfect, if unintended, eulogy a year before her death. “With Dolores Del Rio we are in the presence of a case in which extraordinary beauty is only the material form of talent. She has been gifted with grace, and fresh and vibrant nimbleness that, being natural, seems exotic.” Time had finally caught up to the ageless beauty, which she herself never a vain person had never worried about. "So long as a woman has twinkles in her eyes, no man notices whether she has wrinkles under them."



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