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meXicana EncountersThe Making of Social Identities on the Borderlands$

Rosa Linda Fregoso

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520229976

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520229976.001.0001

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“Fantasy Heritage”

“Fantasy Heritage”

Tracking Latina Bloodlines

(p.103) Chapter Six “Fantasy Heritage”
meXicana Encounters

Rosa Linda Fregoso

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the concept of the “fantasy heritage” and traces the different Latinas in the movie industry. It includes descriptions of the early silent film stars and shows how the Latino/Latina film historiography has disrupted the Eurocentric bias of mainstream film history. One of the most popular Latinas in film, Lupe Vélez, is discussed. It explores the model of a modern “new woman” and studies the meaning of Lupe Vélez's embodied otherness.

Keywords:   fantasy heritage, movie industry, silent films, film historiography, mainstream film history, Lupe Vélez, embodied otherness

Carey McWilliams first coined the term “fantasy heritage” during the 1940s in his trenchant deconstruction of the Mission myth.1 Most often attributed to Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona (1884), the Mission myth entailed reinventing a romantic Spanish history for California—a fictionalized past exploited by Los Angeles “Boosters” bent on transforming the region into the cultural and economic capital of the West.2 “Discovered as a tourist promotion in the 1880s,” McWilliams writes, “the Spanish mission background in Southern California was inflated to mythical proportions.”3 “Fantasy heritage” named the selective appropriation of historical fact, the transformation of selected elements of history (e.g., the economic system of missions and haciendas) into a romantic, idyllic past that repressed the history of race and class relations in the region. “Any intimation of the brutality inherent in the forced labor system of the missions and haciendas, not to speak of the racial terrorism and lynching that made early Anglo-ruled Los Angeles the most violent town in the West during the 1860s and 1870s, was suppressed.”4

It seems fitting that McWilliams would coin the term “fantasy heritage” in the context of Los Angeles’ Mission Revivalism. After all, Los Angeles (or in the words of Mike Davis, its “alter-ego, Hollywood”) is the palisade of the fantasy dream machine: cinema. As several film adaptations of Ramona and dozens of films about the so-called Spanish pastoral era (p.104) so forcefully illustrate, cinema played a key role in reworking California history in the popular imaginary, thereby helping to construct a fantasy heritage for the region.

An early example of fantasy heritage in the making is found in the film Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935). Documenting the enduring legacy of “supremacist pseudo-history” in official public culture, the film depicts the annual “fiesta” or tribute to the “Spanish” (as opposed to “Mexican”) ancestry of the city, with a cast of characters, including Hollywood actors and a mostly white Santa Barbara elite, living the “imagined knightly lifestyles of the dons,” riding Palominos alongside mantilla-draped doncellas.5

As this discussion makes evident, the “fantasy” in my title does not refer to psychoanalysis, or the notion of fantasy as a psychic process, even though I will argue that fantasy is “directly involved in the constitution of a subject’s identity,” much as it is in its psychoanalytic inflection.6 Fantasy, as McWilliams deploys the term, is opposed to reality, and like the imagination, represents the other of reason and rationality.

McWilliams was part of the realist generation who subscribed to a cult of science grounded in the principles of empirical observation.7 For McWilliams, fantasy heritage undermined the “reinforcement of factuality” that served as modernity’s ground for “reality” or “truth.”8 The memories of “Spanish” racial purity were not “truth” but an illusion; not observable, but based on an “unbridled fantasy” of racial mastery.9 Thus, there is a liberatory politics to McWilliams’s deconstruction of fantasy heritage, especially in his reaffirmation of subaltern identities and submerged histories in California—a project that would later inspire nationalists of the Chicano Movement in their disavowal of (white) Spanish heritage and recovery of indigenous and mestizo racial identities for the formation of the nation.

I am interested in the concept of fantasy because I too want to appropriate it for twenty-first century cultural analysis and use it as a pretext for exploring my own ambivalence toward the “cultural opposition between illusion and reality.”10 I say “ambivalence” because although I reject the fundamental mistrust of fantasy and the imagination expressed by the investment in positivism on the part of modernist thinkers such as McWilliams, I understand the politics and ideology behind their suspicion. After all, “fantasy” in the service of the powerful (forces of domination) means one thing; in the service of the subjugated, quite another. McWilliams’s penetrating study deals fundamentally with this problematic, detailing the ways in which fantasy heritage represented the phantasmagoric (p.105) convergence of racial, economic, and cultural domination in the region.11

I also find the fantasy heritage concept to be useful for interrogating the construction of Chicana/o and Latino/a film history. One of the primary aims of Latino/a film historiography has been to deconstruct the exclusionary practices of mainstream (Eurocentric) film history. In the process, Latino historiography has unearthed a detailed account of Latina and Latino involvement in the Hollywood industry. Yet, to a certain degree, Latino revisionist historiography is also implicated in the construction of its own fantasy heritage. The meaning of “Latina bloodlines” in the title of this chapter takes me deeper into the problem at hand.

I deliberately chose to use the term “bloodlines” in my title in order to draw attention to the contradictions plaguing my initial desire to undertake a “genealogy,” in Foucaldian terms. For Foucault, genealogy is a historical method that gives voice to marginal and submerged people in their resistance to the forces of power and domination. In the process of retrieving and resurrecting “subjugated knowledges,” the practice of genealogy alerts us to alternative accounts of the resistances, struggles, and conflicts that in fact constitute history. Genealogy is a method reflected in the scholarly practices of feminist, multicultural, queer, and postcolonial historiographers and researchers.12 Although I initially considered my project to be informed by this notion of genealogy as retrieval of “subjugated knowledges,” in the course of my study, I came to realize that my understanding of the term was contaminated by a very literal and archaic notion of genealogy as bloodlines, or descent from a family pedigree. An example from my initial focus on Latinas in the movie industry will serve to illustrate my point.

I first read about Myrtle González and Beatriz Michelena in Antonio Ríos-Bustamante’s essay, “Latino Participation in the Hollywood Film Industry.” I was driven and inspired by his ebullient descriptions of early silent film stars. About Myrtle González, the first Mexican American film star, Ríos-Bustamante writes: “In marked contrast to the experience of later Latinas who used their own names, González portrayed vigorous outdoor heroines”; about the Latina diva from San Francisco, Beatriz Michelena, he tells us: “Motion Picture World featured her picture on its cover with the caption, ‘Beatriz Michelena, Greatest and Most Beautiful Artist Now Appearing in Motion Pictures.’”13 Prior to this reference by Ríos-Bustamante, I had never heard of Myrtle González or Beatriz Michelena. It was their erasure from mainstream film historiography that (p.106) initially animated my own desire to track their imprint on the public sphere of culture.

The daughter of a native Californio family of grocers in Los Angeles, Myrtle González was a talented child soprano who sang in local church choirs and performed in theaters throughout the city. In 1911, González debuted in the film Ghosts and later starred in more than forty films for Universal and Vitagraph Studios, delivering a highly acclaimed performance in the film The Chalice of Courage (1915). However, González’s stardom would be short-lived. After six years in motion pictures, she died of heart failure, attributed to a “severe fall suffered three years [earlier] while doing ‘stunt’ riding in a photoplay.”14 González was twenty-seven years old when she died. Married to Universal Studios director Allen Watt, she was survived by a son from a previous marriage. I was so surprised to learn that Myrtle González was the first bona fide Mexican American movie star and by the fact that she played against type. Yet she remained absent from mainstream film history.

The San Francisco Chronicle embraced the second star in my study, Beatriz Michelena (figure 7), as a “native, California prima donna.” And her preeminent stature in the performing arts extended well beyond California. In 1914 she was featured on the cover of the premier theatrical newspaper of the time (1878–1921), The Dramatic Mirror. The daughter of Venezuelan-born Fernando Michelena, Beatriz inherited her father’s musical talents, initiating her stardom as a soprano in opera and stage musical comedy in the early 1910s. In 1913, she met and married George Middleton, a member of the San Francisco elite whose wealth derived from interests in the railroad and the motor car industries. Middleton was also executive producer of the California Motion Picture Corporation, an independent studio based in San Francisco with studios in Marin County (years before the movie industry became concentrated in Hollywood).15

Michelena’s career in cinema was launched with Middleton’s production of Bret Harte’s best-selling novel, Salomy Jane (1914). In the years she worked with the CMPC, she starred as lead in sixteen of their feature-length productions. Unlike many of the early screen stars, Michelena was able to exercise considerable control over the production process, shaping her career by making the “final decision in choice of stories and cast,” as well as in the allocation of funds for sets, wardrobe, and locations, largely because of her marriage to Middleton.16 After a dispute over back wages with the financially strapped owners, she eventually became the company’s executive producer and co-owner when CMPC ownership was transferred to Michelena and her husband.


“Fantasy Heritage”Tracking Latina Bloodlines

FIGURE 7. Beatriz Michelena. The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen, Collection of Geoffrey Bell. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

(p.108) What most appealed to me about Beatriz Michelena was her coupling of artistic talent with entrepreneurship. Here was the Latina equivalent of Mary Pickford: a screen and stage performer/star and businesswoman. In the late 1910s, Michelena contributed to the city’s unsuccessful campaign to establish the San Francisco Bay Area as the movie production center, working closely with city officials and offering her studios in San Rafael free of charge.17 Although her work on screen ended in 1920, Michelena’s public stature as operatic star and “internationally known prima donna” continued to be the subject of media attention. In 1927, she introduced the operas Carmen and Madame Butterfly in Latin America, traveling with a company of thirty singers and dancers in a tour that the San Francisco Chronicle characterized as “the first invasion of those countries by an American operatic star in repertoire performances.”18

If I left the story here, I would certainly be constructing a genealogy in terms of bloodlines, that is to say, unearthing the histories of Latina stars on the basis of their descent from the family of the Latin race. Just as significant, I would be furthering the making of yet another fantasy heritage. And here I would like to give the meaning of fantasy heritage a different inflection, one that goes beyond the modernist “cultural opposition between illusion and reality,” to talk about fantasy heritage as the process of historical recovery that glosses over contradictions, struggles, and conflicts.

As we know, the recovery of new objects of knowledge is the first phase in the formation of such disciplines as women’s/gender studies, Chicano/a and Afro-American studies, and queer studies. But twenty years after the formation of Chicana/o studies, it seems necessary to go beyond the celebration of “Latino participation in the Hollywood industry,” for this kind of Chicano/Latino historiography is based on an essentialist notion of identity, one that considers ethnicity/race to be the guarantee and ultimately the origin of an oppositional politics. It is not enough to simply enumerate a litany of Chicano and Latino names and faces without specifying the nature, ideology, and politics of their very involvement in the imperially, sexually, and racially charged agenda of the movie industry. I object to a historiography centered on celebratory claims about Latinos in Hollywood because in the end it can lead to the invention of a new myth: a nationalist fantasy heritage.

I too would be constructing a “fantasy heritage” if I simply focused on the participation of Myrtle González and Beatriz Michelena in motion pictures without confronting the nature of their relationship to the industry. What did their presence on the silver screen symbolize? Did their (p.109) latina-ness matter? Did it disturb the supremacist pseudohistory unfolding as the dominant primal myth of California? Did their bodies “symbolize the nexus of gender and race,” as Hershfield writes about Dolores del Rio?19 Did González and Michelena tap into the nation’s growing anxieties around race? Or its shifting imagination of racialized sexuality?

“Fantasy Heritage”Tracking Latina Bloodlines

FIGURE 8. Colonialist romance: Myrtle González (far left) in one of several Wlms in which she crossed the color line. From the collection of Paul Ballard.

It seems clear from the roles González and Michelena played that both “were more easily able to move in and out of ethnic roles” because they were light-skinned.20 In fact, unlike most of the actors coded as nonwhite (i.e., Latinos/as, Asians, and blacks), both women mostly portrayed white characters, thus crossing the color line (figure 8). And, although (p.110) from today’s perspective González and Michelena appear to us as racialized (“Latinas”/”Mexicanas”), the biographical sketching of their ancestry as “Spanish” meant that, in the early twentieth century, neither was coded as “nonwhite.”21 For example, González’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times states the following: “A writer in a Tokio [sic] magazine once called her ‘The Virgin White Lily of the Screen,’ and that was the tribute she most prized of the hundreds she received during her career.”22 Which explains why, at the height of the eugenics movement, both women were able to evade restrictions around interracial marriage and procreation. Michelena married a wealthy white man; González was married twice to white men.

When we examine the films they starred in and the white characters that these “white” Latinas played, the limits of genealogy as bloodline become even more transparent.23 The two films I screened at the Library of Congress starring Myrtle González were colonialist adventure films, with González portraying white women who cross the border of “civilization” into the unknown terrain of wilderness or “barbarie.” For example, in A Natural Man (1915), González plays Rose, a modern young woman who, “tired of social hypocrisy” in the city, decides to visit her uncle’s ranch in the country, only to be kidnapped by a young boy called the “wild child.” The dichotomy between the modern and the primitive is also the theme in The Showdown (1917), where González portrays a modern white woman named Lydia Benson, who as the film opens is reading the book, Back to the Primitive. Later, in one of those mysterious leaps in plot typical of early films, Lydia is marooned on a Pacific island with her dog and an escaped African slave.

Although the entire collection of the California Motion Picture Corporation’s master prints and negatives was destroyed in a vault fire, two of Michelena’s films survive. I managed to screen Just Squaw (1919) at the LOC and found its colonialist overtones to be even more pronounced than those in González’s films. Michelena plays “Fawn,” a love-stricken Indian described as “just a half-breed squaw” by another character. The object of Fawn’s love is a “white stranger” whom she refuses to marry because it would violate social prohibitions around miscegenation: “No, you’re white. I’m Indian,” she tells him. In the end, Fawn’s unsparing abnegation is duly rewarded with the discovery of her true identity as biologically white. As a child, the Indian woman who Fawn believed to be her mother had kidnapped Fawn from her parents. In addition to reproducing dominant social taboos around interracial marriage and blood quantum definitions of race, Just Squaw ends by reinscribing the (p.111) ideology of white supremacy. The final scene, in which Fawn discovers that she’s white, ends with a shot of other characters looking up at Fawn, then by a close-up of an angelic Fawn, smiling ecstatically. This framing of Fawn as “saint” or “virgin,” enshrouded in a luminous whiteness, underscores the extent to which Just Squaw deliberately conjures up the association of whiteness with goodness and purity—the hallmark of white supremacist ideology.

My screenings of Latina representations at the LOC were, to say the least, disappointing. And I recount my distress surrounding the roles that these Latina stars portrayed in order to emphasize that the project of historical rediscovery is myopic if it fails to recognize the politics of representation that these Latina predecessors embodied.

In many ways, Latino/a film historiography has appropriately disrupted the Eurocentric bias of mainstream film history, unearthing the hidden presence of Latinos/as in the movie industry since the early days of cinema, as actors, directors, cinematographers, technicians, musicians, and so forth. As part of its corrective to dominant film history, the discourse of Latino studies has celebrated both Myrtle González and Beatriz Michelena for their pioneering roles, for playing leading and “diverse roles.” Both women are praised for not conforming to the early-twentieth-century cult of femininity and domesticity through their portrayals of “vigorous outdoor heroines,” adventurous women who excelled in the male-dominated activities of horseback riding and fighting.24 Yet, as I have noted, the project of Latino/a historical recovery has not attended as vigorously to the ways in which Latina actors like González and Michelena were in fact complicitous with the racial ideology of the time, especially the dominant racist colonialism of early cinema. So what would an alternative Latina genealogy look like? I turn now to my story of the “Queen of the Bs.”

She was known as the “Mexican Spitfire,” but also as “Whoopee Lupee,” “Hot Tamale,” and “Tropical Hurricane.” She is often dismissed for embodying the “negative” extreme of Mexican femininity: hot-blooded, volatile, sexually promiscuous—the “tragic prototype of the Latina Spitfire stereotype,” according to Ríos-Bustamante.25 Born María Guadalupe Villalobos in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Lupe Vélez started performing in musical comedies in Mexico City during the 1920s. In 1926, at the age of seventeen, she left for California, joining three thousand Mexicans with dreams of making it in Hollywood. Initially playing minor parts in two-reel shorts, Vélez had her big break the following year, when she co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks in the silent feature Gaucho (p.112) (1927). During the span of her seventeen-year career, Lupe Vélez was one of a handful of actresses who excelled both on the screen and in Broadway musicals. By the time she died, at age thirty-five, Lupe Vélez had starred in forty-five feature films, working in Hollywood, London, and Mexico, though she is best known for her title roles in screwball comedy, the eight feature films known as the Mexican Spitfire series.

One way of studying Lupe Vélez would be to focus on her otherness—her racialized, gendered star persona within the Hollywood industry, which stands in relation to the dominant racial and gender ideology in the United States. Although I recognize this as an important task, my genealogy of Lupe Vélez takes a more circuitous route, one that examines the meaning of her embodied otherness (public persona and star text) as a metaphor for shifting, contradictory, and ambiguous social identities.

In her own time, Vélez’s most rancorous critics often positioned her in that shifting social identity of Mexican-ness that today one would characterize as Chicana. At the time, critics in Mexico often measured Vélez against another exotic Mexican star in Hollywood of the period, the “sedate and lady-like” Dolores del Rio, who was “carefully crafted” by the industry as a “high class ethnic woman of impeccable morals.”26 They vilified Lupe Vélez as a “commoner” (populachera), “vulgar and unmannerly” (una chica incorrigiblemente vulgar) or, as one Mexican critic would write, Vélez had “traces we notice solely in lower class people, without culture, nor ideals, nor patriotism.”27

These attitudes echo those of the Mexican elite toward the poor workers leaving Mexico for el norte. Like her Mexican compatriots working and living in the United States, Vélez was denounced as “agringada” and “apochada” (anglicized and assimilated), for “disowning her country”—in sum, for being a pocha/Chicana.28 To a great extent, the construction by the Mexican national elite of Vélez’s identity as pocha/Chicana reveals the degree to which her public persona evoked anxieties about the solidity and stability of Mexican national identity during the 1930s. Emerging from decades of social upheavals, postrevolutionary Mexico had embarked on a comprehensive social, political, and cultural project for unifying the nation and defining its “Mexicanidad,” or national identity—a unity threatened by the ever-growing exodus of its citizens to the United States. Even though the Mexican diaspora—nearly one-tenth of Mexico’s population migrated to the United States between 1910 and 1930, among them Lupe—disrupted Mexican nationalism’s imaginary unity, there are also ways in which her otherness raised anxieties about the shifting and contradictory nature of Mexican femininity.29

(p.113) Gabriel Ramírez characterizes her as a “flapper Azteca,” an Aztec flapper of Mexico City’s “roaring 1920s.” In 1925, at age sixteen, Lupe Vélez bobbed her hair and donned the flapper style, becoming an instant hit with her debut performance of the Charleston at the Teatro Principal.30 She was part of modernity’s revolution in lifestyle in Mexico City, of the modern, “refreshing,” “vigorous,” new manners and morals that topped the “musty and frivolous European conservativism” dominant in early twentieth-century Mexico.31 Influenced by jazz, the Charleston, and Hollywood movies, Lupe Vélez was very much a “modern, new woman” of Mexico City, expressing the “new visibility of the erotic in popular culture” through her performances, fashion, and lifestyle.32 A liberated woman of the twenties, Vélez followed in the footsteps of her mother, who had been an opera singer and her most “enthusiastic” and “unconditional” champion.33 And when her father prohibited the use of his family name for public performances, she adopted her mother’s maiden name, “Vélez.” Independent and undomesticated, she embodied the new sexual liberalism, the new erotic impulse that surged into the public realm during the 1920s, challenging the existing framework of strict gender roles and providing a new model for Mexican femininity.

At seventeen, Lupe Vélez left Mexico for the United States, where she entered the “youth-centered world” in full swing during the 1920s. She encountered the “new freedoms that post-suffrage women seemed to possess,” as well as the new autonomy and mobility of U.S. youth.34 Arriving in the winter of 1926, unemployed and with a few dollars in her pocket, she would later recall this early resolve: “I was determined to make money and defend myself, because the woman who wants to, doesn’t need anyone to defend her.”35

As Vélez’s career flourished, she was adored by fans in the United States and Mexico alike. Mexican critics, in sharp contrast, were threatened by her subversive form of femininity and decried her negative influence on young Mexican women.36 Her subversion of traditional notions of femininity—especially her newfound sexual freedom—probably also scandalized the parents of a new generation of Mexican American youth. After all, Lupe Vélez openly advocated sex beyond the confines of marriage. In a 1929 article, also translated into Spanish, the columnist Virginia Lane reports: “Lupe can love five men at the same time, with incredible ease, and love them all for five different reasons”—a statement sure to scandalize Catholic Mexican sensibilities.37

By 1930, there were “150,000 people of Mexican birth or heritage” residing in Los Angeles. And like adolescents elsewhere, Mexican (p.114) American teenagers “moved in a youth-centered world” and embraced “the revolution in manners and morals” sweeping the country.38 In many ways, the social and cultural transformations that were ushered in by the new ethic of capitalist consumerism shook the foundations of Mexican “familial oligarchy,” especially its “ideology of control.”39

Indeed, Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood and Lupe Vélez, was ground zero of the losing battle to discipline and regulate new expressions of sexuality and economic independence among Mexican American youth. They “bobbed their hair like flappers of the screen.”40 “They moved out of their family home and into apartments.…They could go out with men unsupervised as was the practice among their Anglo peers.”41 They copied the “models made stylish by movie stars and actresses.”42 And, finally, as Vicki Ruiz observes about these young women of the 1930s: “Sparked by manufactured fantasies and clinging to youthful hopes, many Mexican women teenagers avidly read celebrity gossip columns, attended Saturday matinees, cruised Hollywood and Vine, and nurtured their visions of stardom.”43 The favorite actresses among thirty-seven Mexican teenagers living in a settlement house in 1929 included Greta Garbo, Dolores del Rio, Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, and Lupe Vélez.44

In Lupe Vélez, Mexican American young women found alternatives to a femininity circumscribed by marriage and masculine authority: “I’ve always been afraid of marriage,” Vélez explained in 1934. “It seems to me like being imprisoned in an iron cage…I do not tolerate anyone telling me what I can and cannot do.”45 Vélez was also a model for female independence and autonomy: “Do you want to know Lupe, the real Lupe? I love freedom. I want to be free to sing and dance always and when I so desire.”46 And through her public persona and movie characters, Lupe Vélez portrayed strong women who were active agents in public spaces both as career women and as players in romance and courtship. In this manner, she provided young women with an alternative model of female behavior and identity. Although she more often symbolized the “new visibility of the erotic,” especially the exotic blend of race and sex so stylish in the 1920s, in other ways Lupe Vélez’s image worked to undermine the gendered framework of female identity tied exclusively to motherhood. “I have only one solution for whatever difficulties I encounter…work, work, work, and more work…My father and mother taught me and my two sisters to work since we were very young. My two sisters are singers and at the age of 15, I was already dancing professionally.”47 The photograph of Vélez holding a pair of turtles she named “Lupe” and “Gary” (for (p.115) Gary Cooper) is a prime example of her trendsetting nature and of the persona of the modern “new” woman which she cultivated. Vélez is credited with starting the Hollywood fad (circa 1930) of collecting shelled reptiles (figure 9).

“Fantasy Heritage”Tracking Latina Bloodlines

FIGURE 9. Lupe Vélez holding a pair of turtles named “Lupe” and “Gary” (circa 1930). Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

This model of a modern “new woman” is not the dominant image of Mexican femininity lodged in cultural memory; it is not the image of Mexican female identity that circulated in public discourses, either in Mexico, where the dominant feminine ideal was calcified in self-sacrificing motherhood, or in the United States, with its colonialist investment in an image of premodern Mexican primitivism. In the embrace of sexual liberalism, (p.116) financial independence, and personal meaning derived from something other than motherhood, Lupe Vélez subverted the prevailing gendered framework and rejected dominant tropes associated with Mexican femininity, especially the ideal of motherhood and passivity made visible in the rebozo-draped Mexicana of Hollywood films. This is not, I should note, the dominant narrative one hears about Lupe Vélez, who is more often maligned in Latino historiography for perpetuating a negative stereotype of Latina identity.48

What I find most curious (and unfortunate) about the legacy of Lupe Vélez as “the Mexican Spitfire” is the confusion that exists between the characters she portrayed and her public persona. Vélez’s visibility within the star system was predicated on an identity that she herself cultivated, as a woman who was “uninhibited,” “unpretentious” and “frank,” “extravagant” and “unconventional”—a woman who broke with all social conventions. Often this visibility was interpreted differently within Hollywood circles, where she was known for being “impetuous,” for her “irreverence” and “heavy-handed pranks,” for “a very rich repertoire of bad words,” for a “difficult and aggressive personality.”

The confusion between Vélez’s persona and her characters is nowhere more evident than in the way the term “Mexican Spitfire” is used in Latino historiography today. Initially associated with Lupe’s comedic performance in cinema, the term is now interpreted as an insignia for all that masculinist discourse judges as “negative” about Vélez’s public persona, as synonymous for the “sexually alluring and available…fallen [Latin] woman.”49 In the process, Vélez’s talent as a performer—actor, comedian, and dancer, on stage and screen—is erased.

I owe my interest in Lupe Vélez in part to historian Tatcho Mindiola, who characterized Vélez as a “predecessor to Lucille Ball.”50 I now consider Lupe Vélez to be the Chicana Queen of the Bs. She is rarely considered as important as Katharine Hepburn or Irene Dunne, but she was one of the most accomplished and popular screwball comedians of the time.51

The 1940s was a contradictory period for Mexican Americans in Hollywood: the growing economic crisis in the industry was exacerbating the anti-immigrant xenophobia already under way in the country; then there was the backlash against the sexual liberalism of the 1920s, resulting in a return to gender conservatism, while the introduction of the industry’s Production (sex and racial) Codes redefined the limits of the “cinematic melting pot,” tying restrictions around interracial liaisons to “skin color.”52 In fact, a few years earlier, the dark-skinned Vélez had been (p.117) explicitly singled out in the media’s anti-immigrant campaigns in defense of “U.S.-born” workers during the Great Depression, as this commentator makes evident: “It is time for [Lupe Vélez] and her foreign accent to disappear so that our own American actresses can occupy the space that corresponds to them.”53

Within this unsettling wartime context, the character Lupe Vélez portrayed in the Mexican Spitfire series seemed to violate all the norms. Carmelita Fuentes, the “spitfire” in the eight films directed by Leslie Goodwins for RKO Studios, was a “new woman” who, though married, maintained her career as a singer and dancer. In spite of Hollywood’s unofficial policy imposing limits on the depiction of interracial marriage, Carmelita married a white advertising executive she met in Mexico and later moved with him to an upscale apartment in Manhattan—a characterization that inspired the Mexican critic Emilio García Riera to dub Carmelita as a “high-class” Chicana. As he explains: “For once, a Mexican woman is removed from the haciendas, churches, cantinas and cactuses, dressed in fashionable, cosmopolitan clothing, and situated in the most worldly of U.S. urban settings: New York.”54

The first few films in the series were extremely successful, rekindling Vélez’s popularity among U.S. audiences. The Mexican Spitfire, released in 1939, played for three weeks to sold-out crowds at the Rialto in New York. And in Mexico, The Girl from Mexico (1939) received high praise from some critics, who described it as a “great comedy,” “an hour of nonstop laughter,” and Lupe as a “great actress” and dancer.55

Undoubtedly, the plots of the Mexican Spitfire series were simple-minded and formulaic, exploiting, for comedic effect, the deliberate malapropisms and “foreign-ness” in her overblown accent, along with her racialized gender. Throughout her career, Vélez starred mostly in B movies; however, as Ruby Rich reminded me, the revival of B movies as the “true American cinema” during the 1970s makes her contributions as an actress of the forties even more significant today. And while in Latin American her status as a star reached mythic proportions, Vélez was marginalized within the Hollywood star system.56 Yet, despite failing in her aspirations to play the dramatic roles that she believed would launch her into the realm of “true” stardom, Vélez was always highly regarded as a performer, receiving mostly favorable reviews throughout her career, especially for her comedic performances in film, Broadway musicals, and interestingly, her irreverent camp impersonations of female stars like Katharine Hepburn, Shirley Temple, Gloria Swanson, Dolores del Rio, and Marlene Dietrich.

(p.118) At the Library of Congress I was able to screen Vélez’s last U.S. film, Redhead from Manhattan (1943), a wartime musical combining the prosaic theme of patriotism with a favorable stance on immigrants from south of the border—a perspective undoubtedly influenced by the Good Neighbor Policy’s marketing strategies in Latin America. In Redhead from Manhattan Vélez performs multiple roles, including Rita, an immigrant from Latin America who has recently arrived illegally, as a stowaway; Rita’s cousin, Maria, a star in Broadway musicals who attempts to keep her marriage (and pregnancy) a secret from her manager; and Mandy Lou, a black maid. I was disappointed by Vélez’s use of the degrading tradition of “blackface” for impersonating Mandy Lou, especially since Vélez had also been the object of anti-immigrant racism. I wondered how a Mexicana living in California during the height of anti-Mexican xenophobia could uncritically adopt the racist codes of blackface performance.

The plot revolves around Rita’s dreams of becoming a star: “In New York I shall be a new discovery. I shall be a great star like Carmen Miranda”—a desire fulfilled when Rita is convinced by her cousin, Maria, to take her place on stage. To the tune of “Somewhere South of Here,” Vélez displays her superb talents in camp performance, dancing in front of a chorus line, dressed excessively “ethnic” in tricolor rebozo halters, wearing an outrageous wide-rim hat topped with large antennaed bumblebees—an obvious parody of Carmen Miranda. As Rita, Vélez is able to occupy the place of Carmen Miranda momentarily, intentionally mobilizing a “hyper-latinidad” in her histrionic performance of Carmen Miranda, which in many respects parodies not only the Hollywood success of the “Brazilian bombshell” but also Vélez’s own desire for stardom, at any price. Redhead from Manhattan was, after all, the final film she made in Hollywood before her death.

In exploring the meaning of Lupe Vélez’s embodied otherness as startext, I came to realize that this “excess”—her penchant for over-the-top, histrionic impersonations and camp performances—has often been misinterpreted as literal embodiments of Latina otherness, in other words, a “stereotype,” particularly by a later generation of Latino film historians. The politics of Latino and Chicano historiography has been unable (or unwilling) to appreciate the subversive humor of Vélez’s performances. Vélez is often compared with the other great Mexicana star of the period, Dolores del Rio, who, although often idealized for being sedate and “aristocratic,” seems trapped in her own seriousness. Vélez, by contrast, was deliberately transgressive, deploying her own image to comment on her position within the industry.

(p.119) It is thus not surprising that Lupe Vélez has been reclaimed in the world of video art, for one of the basic elements of the genre is appropriation as well as the refashioning of a space of camp performance and excess. In the recent experimental video The Assumption of Lupe Vélez (1999), Rita González examines the “cult of Lupe Vélez” by juxtaposing scenes from two underground films of the 1960s, Lupe (directed by Andy Warhol, 1965) and Lupe (directed by Jose Rodríguez-Soltero, 1966), with footage from a performance by “La Lupe” (Bianco Arellano), a Latino drag queen in Echo Park (Los Angeles) who “customizes her/his glamour according to the cult of Vélez,” according to González’s publicity flyer.

González’s video is a poetic memorial to Vélez’s transgressive performances, one that opens up a space for the multiple meanings in the word “assumption”—as “adoption” and “appropriation,” but also as the “Assumption (to heaven) of the Virgin Mary”—and in the process enshrines her significance in queer performance and avant-garde filmmaking. As Ramon Garcia explains: “The ‘assumption’ in the title of the piece refers to Lupe Vélez’s iconographic status as ‘saint’ or ‘martyr’ in a queer hagiography in which movie stars and their drag queen impersonators occupy the Catholic narrative of saint’s lives.”57

The Assumption of Lupe Vélez is itself framed by experimental visual and (non)narrative techniques, yet within its experimental mode, González manages to convey a legibly nuanced message about the cultural impact of Vélez beyond the historical context in which the star lived. González meditates on the reconstruction of Vélez as “legend of saintly proportions, as Evita Perón or Selena for queer counter-cultural community,” inspiring such avant-garde artists as Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, and Jose Rodríguez-Soltero.58 Throughout the video González strategically summons the haunting presence of Lupe Vélez, mainly through visually blurred, surreal images, accompanied by the tormented voice of Mexican experimental artist Ximena Cuevas, who as Vélez comments on her own exploitation by Hollywood and reads excerpts from her own obituary (written by Heda Hopper).

It was “La Lupe’s” camp performances in The Assumption of Lupe Vélez that led me on the search for other excesses in the public persona of Lupe Vélez, for transgressions beyond the sexual liberalism and female autonomy I mentioned earlier. I found evidence of what Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano calls “queer quotes or traces,” beginning with the fact that as a child, Vélez played with boys because girls considered her to be too rough.59 “I used to dress in my brother, Emigdio’s, pants and jackets,” she (p.120) told a reporter. “I also imitated the dance steps, walking style, gestures and attitudes of all the boys I played with.”60

There are further “queer traces” of the adult Lupe Vélez in drag: a sighting of Lupe wearing a “sports jacket and a cap” in New York city; a commentary on the oil-stained pants she often wore while repairing cars.61 And then there was Vélez’s passion for boxing: “She never missed boxing matches, attending almost every Friday, when she would be spotted in front row seats at the American Legion Stadium, wearing a red wig and standing on her seat, yelling outrageous instructions to the boxers.”62 I often wonder if it is this androgyny in Lupe Vélez’s gender identity that scandalized her critics, or perhaps it was the combination of transgressions that made her so unacceptable.

In closing, I would like to return to the question of fantasy. Vélez committed suicide two days after throwing a big bash in honor of her saint’s day, “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” on December 12, 1944. Four months pregnant, she died of an overdose of Seconal. It does not surprise me that even in death Lupe Vélez was the source of controversy (her death having been the subject of discrepant accounts) or that a proliferation of other fantasies, including my own, would be animated by this controversy. In his biography of Vélez, Gabriel Ramírez writes: “Her death, a marvel of theatricality and of poor taste, was fitting of Hollywood. And perhaps, even of Lupe Vélez.”63

As González’s video reminds us, the major culprit behind the sensational controversies surrounding Vélez’s death is Kenneth Anger’s “underground classic,” Hollywood Babylon. In his gossip-riddled “exposé” of Hollywood scandals, the chapter entitled “Chop Suicide” describes the sordid details about Vélez’s death that he claims newspapers refused to publish:

When Juanita, the chambermaid, had opened the bedroom door at nine, the morning after the suicide, no Lupe was in sight. The bed was empty. The aroma of scented candles, the fragrance of tuberoses almost, but not quite masked a stench recalling that left by Skid-Row derelicts. Juanita traced the vomit trail from the bed, followed the spotty track over to the orchid-filed bathroom. There she found her mistress, Señorita Velez, head jammed down in the toilet bowl, drowned.

The huge dose of Seconal had not been fatal in the expected fashion. It had mixed retch-erously with the Spitfire’s Mexi-Spice Last Supper. The gut action, her stomach churning, had revived the dazed Lupe. Violently sick, an ultimate fastidiousness drove her to stagger towards the sanitary sanctum of the salle de bain where she slipped on the tiles and plunged head first into her Egyptian Chartreuse Onyx Hush-Flush Model Deluxe.64

(p.121) Initially I found Anger’s account of Vélez’s death to be mean-spirited and degrading; it constructed her as a figure of abjection. However, reading Matthew Tinkcom’s study of the discursive production and context of Hollywood Babylon forced me to rethink my initial impulse. Reclaiming the “camp sensibilities” in Anger’s writings on Hollywood, Tinkcom characterizes Hollywood Babylon as a form of “queer fan textual production,” one that employs “the discursive strategies of queer male camp,” including “dissemblance, subterfuge and ironic play.”65 From the perspective of queer camp sensibilities, Anger’s account of Vélez’s death is less demeaning or degrading as much as it is irreverent and ironic, deriving from his liberal use of tabloid imagery and gossip. Like his other over-the-top stories of Hollywood celebrities in the book, Anger’s version of Vélez’s suicide represents a counterhistory to the idealized publicity which animated Hollywood’s production of stardom and fandom. According to Tinkcom, a literal reading of the book ignores both Anger’s “antagonistic stance towards Hollywood” and his critique of scandal and tabloid culture as well as of “Hollywood’s own impulse to profit from gossip-driven knowledge.”66

Anger’s irreverent satire would find echoes in Warhol’s Lupe, which features Edie Sedgwick as Lupe Vélez. One of Warhol’s first experimental films in multiple projection, Lupe re-enacts “the last evening in the life of Lupe Vélez.”67 Playing on both Warhol and Anger, González’s video opens with a disturbing toilet-drowning scene. This grotesque framing of Lupe’s suicide as excess has fueled distortions and confusions about the details surrounding Lupe Vélez’s death.

A few things are known, and none substantiate the sensational accounts that were spun from the account given by Anger. For one, Juanita was not the name of her “chambermaid,” as Anger would refer to the woman who found Lupe Vélez. It was, rather, Beulah Kinder, Vélez’s secretary and companion of ten years (and whom Vélez referred to as “mammy”) who first discovered her body, lying on “a soft-feathered cover, between silk sheets, wearing her favorite blue, shimmering silk pajamas, with her blond hair carefully arranged over a pink pillow.” “‘I thought she was asleep. She looked so peaceful,’ Kinder adds, ‘But when I touched her head, it was cold, so I called the police.’”68

Then there are the reasons behind her suicide, given by Vélez herself, in two notes she left on a nightstand by her bed. The first is to Harald Raymond, an aspiring actor she had been involved with during the preceding few months:

(p.122) To Harald,

May God forgive you and forgive me, too but I prefer to take my life away and our baby’s before I bring him with shame or killin him.


On the back of the same note she wrote:

How could you, Harald, fake such a great love for me and our baby when all the time you didn’t want us? I see no other way out for me so goodbye and good luck to you.

Love Lupe

I am skeptical. For the reason even Vélez herself provides is too transparent and patently obvious, too one-faceted, lacking complexity and, from my perspective just as important, going against the grain of the feminist genealogy I have just constructed. Not that I am looking for a conspiracy, or for Mafia perpetrators as in the “suicide” of Marilyn Monroe. But, it does seem so uncharacteristic that Lupe Vélez—a survivor of spousal battery at the hands of ex-husband Johnny Weissmuller, the ninth Tarzan—would fall victim to unrequited love or would be unable to resolve the contradictions in her Catholic upbringing.

I find comfort in the words of Jorge Labra, published in the obituary he wrote for the Diario del Sureste:

Why did Lupe commit suicide? According to the letter she left, because she was having a baby without a father. She wanted to escape the shame and scandal. Then, why would she write it? She could have very well died, taking this secret to her tomb. On the other hand, who would believe that Little Lupe would fear a scandal? It is difficult to believe that a woman who marries, divorces, and lives through various romances, as they call them there, would be so easily tormented by the same ups and downs of a “quinceañera” [fifteen-year-old girl] who has slipped lamentably, and decides to hide her offense with death.69

Labra explains her suicide in moralistic terms (“She was a young woman living during frivolous times…far away from the moral principles designed to guide young women…at the mercy of her passions…”). Yet his comments prompt me to look elsewhere. Perhaps a structural explanation makes more sense: Lupe as victim of modernity, a woman ahead of her times, or belonging to another time, a woman overwhelmed at the cross-roads by contradictions, unable to resolve the conflicts between sexual liberalism and gender equality, on the one hand, and Mexican Catholicism, familial oligarchy, and gender backlash in this country, on the other.

(p.123) I look elsewhere, combing the pages of her biography, searching for other meanings to the “Mexican Spitfire”: she was “uncontrollably impatient.”70 Then there is the “uncomfortable behavior in which sudden bursts of euphoria and depression emerged constantly.”71 As early as 1932, Frank Cordon of the Saturday Evening Post reported that “Lupe could not stay still for more than ten seconds. Sitting on her legs in a chair, she wrapped herself like a Mexican pretzel and while she talked her mouth, hands, eyes and shoulders moved rapidly.”72

There’s more. While filming in Mexico during the last year of her life, she exhibited symptoms of “disequilibrium.” “Her angry outbursts became intolerable.…she progressively became more depressed and exalted; her mood swings left her out of control.”73 Celebrating her saint’s day with “a big party” on December 12, she invited “many Mexicans in the industry, employed and unemployed, wealthy and poor” to her house on North Rodeo Drive, where “many saw her nervous, confused, and visibly disconcerted.”74

And then I remember Kay Redfield Jamison’s research on moods and madness, her memoir of manic depression, An Unquiet Mind, in which she details moods which remind me of Lupe Vélez’s: an electrifying bolt of energy, overflowing with laughter, exuberance, and fluctuating tides of emotion. And the photograph I discovered at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles lent credence to my hypothesis. Although the phantasmic multiple image of Vélez is an effect of technical manipulation, I believe its photographer, Ernest A. Bachrach, serendipitously (or perhaps knowingly) captured her oscillating temperament. I recognize that I am veering toward speculative psychobiography, even bordering on pseudoscience, in my attempt to diagnose Lupe Vélez with manic-depressive illness. Yet, like Kay Redfield Jamison, Vélez “lived a life particularly intense in moods” (figure 10).75

In an earlier book on the subject, Touched with Fire, Jamison explores the controversial claim of the relation between “artistic temperament and manic depressive illness.” In the introduction, she writes:

The fiery aspects of thought and feeling that initially compel the artistic voyage—fiery energy, high mood, and quick intelligence; a sense of the visionary and the grand; a restless and feverish temperament—commonly carry with them the capacity for vastly darker moods, grimmer energies, and, occasionally, bouts of “madness.” The opposite moods and energies, often interlaced, can appear to the world as mercurial, intemperate, volatile, brooding, troubled, or stormy. In short, they form the common view of the artistic temperament, and.…they also form the basis of the manic-depressive temperament.76


“Fantasy Heritage”Tracking Latina Bloodlines

FIGURE 10. Haunted by an artistic temperament: This “composite shot on one negative,” entered in the Hollywood studios’ still photography show of 1941 by RKO Radio Pictures, eerily captures the overlapping moods of Lupe Vélez. Photograph by Ernest A. Bachrach, RKO Studios. Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Assumption of Lupe Vélez closes with Mexican ranchera singer Chavela Vargas’s interpretation of the melancholic tune “No soy de aquí; ni soy de allá” rolling over the credits. Herself an international figure of lesbian excess, Vargas seems to be guiding us toward an understanding of Lupe Vélez’s death. “No soy de aquí; ni soy de allá.” Lupe was neither from here nor from there; she embodied an otherness that was too excessive for México and Hollywood. Unlike Dolores del Rio, who returned to Mexico (p.125) after Orson Wells jilted her, the jilted and pregnant Lupe Vélez could not go back. In the mournful lyrics by Chavela Vargas I find a clue to Lupe’s final predicament: in the end, she had nowhere to go.

There are scientific arguments “associating the artistic and manic depressive temperaments,” Jamison tells us, scientific studies documenting “the high rate of mood disorders and suicide” in the lives of “eminent poets, artists, and composers.”77 I offer biographical evidence for the possibility of “overlapping natures of artistic and manic depressive temperaments” in the life/body of Lupe Vélez.78 Perhaps the meaning of “Mexican Spitfire,” of the Mexicana who spit fire (as the literal translation of her nickname would read), has less to do with sexuality (sexual promiscuity) or cultural temperament (hot-bloodedness) and more to do with moods and emotions. Perhaps to have been a “Spitfire” means more: an artistic temperament that is “touched with fire.”


(1) . Carey McWilliams, North from Mexico (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1961).

(2) . As Mike Davis writes: “At a New York advertising convention in the early 1930s, the mission aura of ‘history and romance’ was rated as an even more important attraction in selling Southern California than weather or movie industry glamour.” Mike Davis, City of Quartz (London and New York: Verso, 1990), 27.

(3) . McWilliams, North from Mexico, 42.

(4) . Davis, City of Quartz, 26.

(p.190) (5) . Ibid., 83, 27.

(6) . Teresa de Lauretis, “On the Subject of Fantasy,” in Feminisms in the Cinema, ed. Laura Pietropaolo and Ada Testaferri (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995), 64.

(7) . See Luiz Costa Lima, The Control of the Imaginary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 120.

(8) . Ibid.

(9) . Ibid., 206.

(10) . de Lauretis, “On the Subject of Fantasy,” 65.

(11) . Moreover, like McWilliams, Mike Davis details the ways in which the whitening of California history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries reinforced white racial and economic supremacy just as the erasure of Mexican working-class and mixed-race identities consolidated California’s nativism.

(12) . For more on genealogy as historical method see Michel Foucault, “Two Lectures,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. and trans. Colin Gordon, 78–108 (New York: Pantheon, 1980); for a feminist rereading of Foucault’s genealogical method, see Jana Sawicki, Disciplining Foucault (New York and London: Routledge, 1991).

(13) . Antonio Ríos-Bustamante, “Latino Participation in the Hollywood Film Industry, 1911–1945,” in Chicanos and Film, ed. Chon Noriega (New York and London: Garland, 1992), 22.

(14) . Ibid.

(15) . Geoffrey Bell, The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen (New York and London: Cornwall Books, 1984), 72.

(16) . Ibid., 85.

(17) . “Mayor Drives 6-Horse Team,” San Francisco Examiner, 29 July 1919.

(18) . “Operatic Star Leaves on Concert Tour,” San Francisco Chronicle, 10 July 1927.

(19) . See Joanne Hershfield, The Invention of Dolores del Rio (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), x.

(20) . Ibid., 3.

(21) . Michelena’s father is described as “member of a distinguished South American Spanish family” (see “Operatic Star Leaves on Concert Tour”); González’s obituary states she was a “daughter of an old Spanish family” (“Myrtle Gonzales Dead,” Los Angeles Times, 23 October 1918).

(22) . “Myrtle Gonzales Dead,” 1.

(23) . Roughly 10 percent of the films produced during the early era of cinema survive, mostly in public and private archives. At the Library of Congress I located four of the forty-two films starring Myrtle González, but only one of the sixteen featuring Michelena.

(24) . See for example Clara E. Rodríguez, “Visual Retrospective: Latin Film Stars,” in Latin Looks, ed. Clara E. Rodríguez (Boulder: Westview, 1997), 80–84; Antonio Ríos-Bustamante, “Latinos and the Hollywood Film Industry, 1920–1950,” Americas 2001 (January 1988): 6–27.

(25) . Ríos-Bustamante, “Latinos and the Hollywood Film Industry,” 23.

(p.191) (26) . Hershfield, The Invention of Dolores del Rio, 10.

(27) . Mexican critic quoted in Gabriel Ramírez, Lupe Vélez: La mexicana que escupía fuego (Mexico City: Cineteca Nacional, 1986), 53.

(28) . Ibid., 114. “Pocho/pocha” is a disparaging term used by Mexicans in Mexico to refer to the Mexican diaspora. Throughout the twentieth century, “pocho” served to deride Mexicans living in the United States and especially their U.S.-born children, for losing their “culture,” “customs,” and language. Until the Chicano Movement reclaimed “Chicano” as a political identity, the term was used interchangeably with “pocho.”

(29) . Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 6.

(30) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 29.

(31) . Ibid., 28.

(32) . John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), 241.

(33) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 29.

(34) . D’Emilio and Freedman, Intimate Matters, 265.

(35) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 43.

(36) . Ibid., 53.

(37) . Lane quoted in Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 56. This and subsequent translations of Ramírez are mine.

(38) . D’Emilio and Freedman, Intimate Matters, 240.

(39) . Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows, 65.

(40) . Douglas Monroy, “‘Our Children Get So Different Here’: Film, Fashion, Popular Culture, and the Process of Cultural Syncretization in Mexican Los Angeles, 1900–1935,” Aztlan 19, no. 1 (Spring 1988–1990): 87.

(41) . Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows, 59.

(42) . Monroy, “‘Our Children Get So Different Here,’” 90.

(43) . Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows, 58.

(44) . Monroy, “‘Our Children Get So Different Here,’” 83.

(45) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 94.

(46) . Ibid., 62.

(47) . Ibid., 128.

(48) . See especially Ríos-Bustamante, “Latinos and the Hollywood Film Industry”; Gary D. Keller, Hispanics and United States Film (Tempe, Ariz.: Bilingual Press, 1994); and Luis Reyes and Peter Rubie, Hispanics in Hollywood: An Encyclopedia of Film and Television (New York and London: Garland, Inc., 1994).

(49) . See especially Reyes and Rubie, Hispanics in Hollywood, 20–21.

(50) . I thank Tatcho Mindiola for sharing his reservations about the critiques of Lupe Vélez by Chicano historiographers and also for providing me with copies of Vélez films that he had taped from television.

(51) . I owe my understanding of “screwball comedy” to the work of Maya Higgins, who wrote an undergraduate thesis under my supervision at UC-Davis.

(52) . Quoted in Hershfield, The Invention of Dolores del Rio, 18.

(p.192) (53) . Published originally in Continental (December 1931) and quoted in Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 80.

(54) . Emilio García Riera, México visto por el cine extranjero (Mexico City: Ediciones Era: Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro de Investigaciones y Enseñanzas Cinematográficas, 1987–1988), 231.

(55) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 126–27.

(56) . Ibid., 124.

(57) . Ramon Garcia, “New Iconographies: Film Culture in Chicano Cultural Production,” in Decolonial Voices, ed. Arturo J. Aldama and Naomi Quiñonez (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 70.

(58) . Ibid.

(59) . See Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, “Ironic Framings: A Queer Reading of the Family (Melo)drama in Lourdes Portillo’s The Devil Never Sleeps/El diablo nunca duerme,” in Lourdes Portillo: “The Devil Never Sleeps” and Other Films, ed. Rosa Linda Fregoso (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001), 110.

(60) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 27.

(61) . Ibid., 85, 100.

(62) . Ibid., 93.

(63) . Ibid., 12.

(64) . Kenneth Anger, Hollywood Babylon (New York: Bell, 1975), 239.

(65) . Matthew Tinkcom, Working like a Homosexual (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002), 141. I thank Ann Cvetkovich for bringing this text to my attention.

(66) . Ibid., 141, 148.

(67) . According to the catalogue notes of a recent exhibit of Warhol’s films at the Whitney, “Lupe was shown on three screens at its premiere.” See Chrissie Isles, Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art, 1964–1977 (Whitney Museum of American Art, 2001).

(68) . Ramírez, Lupe Vélez, 15.

(69) . Labra quoted in ibid., 139.

(70) . Ibid., 35.

(71) . Ibid., 52.

(72) . Ibid., 82.

(73) . Ibid., 133.

(74) . Ibid., 135.

(75) . Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 211.

(76) . Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1993), 2.

(77) . Ibid., 5, 240.

(78) . Ibid., 6.