In Memoriam: A Look Back at the Films of La India Maria

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Latin America has lost yet another emblematic figure from the world of film and television. Mexico’s “La India María,” born María Elena Velasco on December 17, 1940, passed away this morning, presumably from cancer. Her iconic character appeared in over two dozen films over the course of more than 40 years, and brought several generations of Mexicans a positive image of indigenous femininity through the popular lens of farce and absurdist humor. Much like Cantinflas, La India María maintained her noble, clever indigenous character throughout the entirety of her filmography, exposing social ills like racism, machismo, and corruption, while keeping her films light and family friendly. She also worked extensively in television and is perhaps best known in this medium for her program ¡Ay, María qué puntería! 

Rumors that she was battling stomach cancer began to surface in 2003, which she vehemently denied. Her last appearance was in 2014’s La hija de Moctezuma, directed by her son Iván Lipkies and produced by her daughter, Ivette Lipkies.

Here’s a look back at some of her most cherished appearances on the big screen.

El miedo no anda en burro
Director: Fernando Cortés
Year: 1973

Sor tequila
Director: Rogelio A. González
Year: 1977

Duro per seguro
Director: Fernando Cortés
Year: 1978

El que no corre vuela
Director: Gilberto Martínez Solares
Year: 1982

Las delicias del poder
Director: Iván Lipkies
Year: 1999