As Hollywood mourns the death of actress Raquel Welch, some Latines are learning more about the iconic performer and 1960s icon and her roots in South America.
Born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, in Chicago, Welch was of Bolivian descent. Her father was Armando Tejada, an aeronautical engineer from La Paz, Bolivia, who married Josephine Sarah Hall. She was born in Chicago but grew up in San Diego, California. And she shot to fame for her role in One Million Years B.C.
During an interview with the Associated Press in 2015, Welch said, “The essence of who I am is Latina. I think if you have an Anglo-Saxon background and you are of Latino descent, the Latin side wins out.”
In a 2000 interview, Welch explained why she wasn’t allowed to display her Latina heritage in Hollywood. “It’s kind of a welcomed moment for me to say, ‘I am a Latina,’” she said. “I didn’t really point to it too much at the beginning of my career because it was a decided disadvantage. It would have limited my opportunities. I don’t think I hid it, but I didn’t lean into it.”
In 2015, Remezcla was at the National Association of Latino Independent Producers’ (NALIP) Media Summit where they presented Welch with its Lifetime Achievement Award. At the event, she spoke about her mixed identity.
“I didn’t know which direction I was going,” she said. “Was I the fiery girl with salsa in my blood, or was I more like my mother living life reserved? I still haven’t figured it out.”
Later in her career, Latines had no problem embracing Welch as one of their own. It was evident with the many tributes online after her death.
Some talked about the pride they felt at seeing someone Welch on their screens.
And others like writer Fernando Gros talked about how Welch changed the course for Latinas in Hollywood.
Hollywood celebrities, too, chimed in on how impactful Welch was to them over the years.
Eugenio Derbez took to social media to say, “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Raquel Welch. She conquered not just Hollywood, but everyone’s heart.” Derbez starred in How to Be a Latin Lover with Welch in 2017.
Reese Witherspoon also paid tribute to Welch and said, “She was elegant, professional, and glamorous beyond belief.” Witherspoon and Welch worked together in the cult classic Legally Blonde in 2001.
Other celebrities also paid tribute to her legacy.
Rest easy, Raquel Welch.