We were surprised to find out how many gorgeous women from Latin America were very successful actresses in the old Hollywood. Some of these strong, talented, and beautiful Latin American women who were part of the classic Hollywood long before Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez were born, are here on our list.

Even though they were stunning beauties, they were famous for something other than their acting, singing, and dancing and that is their personality traits. Together, they have created an image of Latin American women as strong-willed, high-spirited, and unmerciful. To this day, they remain to be the icons of the Latin American culture.

Here they are:

“The people of the United States will do anything for Latin America, except read about it.” —James Barrett Reston

Rita Moreno (1931 – ) 

Rita Moreno was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York. She is an actress, singer, dancer, and one of twelve artists that have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. She started her career on Broadway at the age of 13.

Later, she had some supporting roles in classics of 1950s Hollywood such as Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I. Her role of Anita in 1961’s West Side Story made her famous. Moreover, she refused and fought against the stereotypical Latina roles. Even though she is 84 years old today, her career is still going strong. Recently, Moreno played in the animated feature movie Rio 2 and the sitcom, Happily Divorced.

Carmen Miranda (1909 – 1955)

Carmen was born in Portugal and raised in Rio de Janeiro. She is recognizable for her oversized fruit turbans and gaudy dresses of “Miss Chiquita Banana.” Miranda started her career as an immensely popular singer in Brazil. At the time, Samba was just becoming popular.

It was not until the late 1930s that she caught the attention of Broadway impresario Lee Shubert. He invited her to perform in his summer musical, The Streets of Paris. After only one year on Broadway, she got her first movie role in Down Argentine Way.

Her life was short since she died of a heart attack at the age of 46. The fact that was unbelievable for people of that time is that she struggled for years with alcoholism and substance abuse.

Dolores del Rio (1905 – 1983)

Dolores del Rio was born in Mexico and was widely known as one of the most stunning beauties of early Hollywood. Although she had a career full of ups and downs, she always remained a true artist with a deep sense of social responsibility.

Dolores was accidentally discovered by an American movie director while she was dancing the tango at a dinner party. She had a few early box office hits during the silent era but soon transitioned into sound film. Dolores acted in a number of highly successful movies such as Bird of Paradise and Flying Down to Río, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Dolores del Rio is also known for her charity work and activism. She founded a number of philanthropic societies and cultural organizations.

Maria Montez (1912 – 1951)

“The Queen of Technicolor,” as she was called, was born in the Dominican Republic. Her father was the Spanish consul to the Dominican Republic. In the 1930s, her family moved to New York where Maria began a career in modeling and acting for the stage. After accepting a contract from Universal Pictures, she started her adventure in the 1940s movies.  She was married to a French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, and the couple moved to Paris in the 1950s where she continued acting in some local movies.  Maria Montez was only 39 years old when suffered a heart attack in her bathtub.

Lupe Velez (1908 – 1944)

Lupe Velez participated in many beauty contests back in the 1920s when she got her “Miss Hot Tamale” and “Miss Chile Picante” awards. There was a rumor at the time that she shot her lover Gary Cooper in a crime of passion. This was just one of the stories about her ‘wild’ nature. She was born in Mexico but was educated in the United States.

Her first job was a vaudeville performer in Mexico City. Afterward, she made her way to Los Angeles where she acted in a number of movies. The comedy from 1939 called Mexican Spitfire was one of her best movies. As many other beauties at the time, Vélez tragically ended her life – she killed herself at the age of 36.

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