On April 15th, 1957, Pedro Infante woke up early and rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle to the airport. His love of flying brought his death that day, killing him in a plane crash near Mérida, Yucatan. At 11:15 am, Manuel Bernal, of the radio station XEW, announced, “Ha muerto Pedro Infante,” sending out news of the event that transformed Infante from a popular actor and singer into the biggest legend and an icon of Mexico. This past Sunday commemorated the 50th anniversary of Infante’s death, and throughout Mexico several ceremonies remembered “el Ídolo de Guamúchil”.
Infante was at the center of “la Época de Oro” of Mexican cinema and, alongside actors such as María Félix, Pedro Armendáriz, Jorge Negrete, Sara García and Dolores del Río, contributed to the development of Mexico’s movie industry and the creation of plenty of classics that to this day are cherished by the newer generations. Although there were other actors that might have been more talented than Infante, none of them has reached the same icon status. Besides being an actor, Infante was the most popular ranchera and mariachi singer in Mexico. He recorded classics such as “Cien Años”,”Tu Enamorado”,”Tu Recuerdo Y Yo”, “Corazón”, and “La Que Se Fue.”
But Infante reached idol status even before his death because he lived the life of a rebel, complete with rock-star lifestyle. He had money, rode motorcycles, and flew airplanes. Even before his death he had had two airplane accidents that he barely survived. Every man wanted to be like Pedro and every woman wanted to be with him. Pedro Infante was the ultimate macho for Mexicans.
Despite his fame and fortune, Pedro remained modest and acknowledged his humble beginnings in Sinalóa. He contributed large amounts of his own wealth to different charities throughout Mexico. But the main reason people could identify with Infante was because the characters he played were portraits of the everyday, struggling Mexican man. Others actors went the easier way by playing roles of characters that didn’t relate to the common people. But Pedro’s most famous roles such as “Pepe el Toro” and “Tizoc” were individuals discriminated against by society because of their humble origins, and most of them suffered tragic endings. The purpose of his characters wasn’t to become the triumphant hero but to exalt the pride, courage, and values that Mexicans cherished at the time. His characters were lovable because he played them as the “pícaro”, smart-ass, hard worker, with whom everyone could relate.
“El Ídolo de Guamúchil” might have died 50 years ago, but his legend lives on in Mexico, just like Elvis Presley’s and James Dean’s do in the USA. As there have been random sightings of Elvis in the USA, every year there have been random sightings of Pedro Infante throughout Mexico. Like James Dean, the “Rebel Without a Cause”, Infante, also seen as a rebel, died in a vehicle crash.
Infante’s immortal film scenes — such as Pepe el Toro’s singing “Amorcito Corazón” in Nosotros Los Pobres — are part of Mexican popular culture. His movies and music remain everpresent not only for Mexicans but for Latinos throughout the world. Descansa en paz Torito.