from Huizache #3

The Bolero of Lupe Vélez

Alejandro Murguía

The movieland glamour magazines thrive on Lupe Vélez. They thirst for this Mexican beauty. They just drink her up. Her face graces the cover of Film Weekly, Motion Picture, Cinelandia, and True Confessions, over and over, as if they couldn’t help themselves. Couldn’t keep their cameras away from her obsidian black hair, her flashing eyes, the cupcake mouth, and all those society parties, husbands, lovers, gossip. As if Hollywood couldn’t help talking about her. Just couldn’t help it. Talking. About. Lupe. Vélez.

She was a foundling, discovered at the front door of a convent, wrapped in a red rebozo. She was born without a navel. She had an extra toe amputated. Her story is so old it’s in the Bible. Her life would make a great Hollywood movie—My pinchi, pinchi vida. She’s so hard she doesn’t cry at funerals. She’s so soft novellas make her weep, big sloppy tears. She’s the most expensive Mexican that’s ever worked in Hollywood. They call her la más chíngona. La Mera Mera. She can name her own price. Le gusta lo pegado al hueso. She’s had her heart broken a hundred times. She has no heart to break. No one knows her real name. Everyone calls her Lupita. Lupe Vélez. Rumors follow her like hungry dogs. They say things about her.

She used to work in pornographic movies. She has one breast bigger than the other. She has a womb the size of a tunnel. She has a womb the size of a quarter. She smokes cigars, and on the first Monday of the month, dresses like a man, in a suit and tie, and snap-brim hat. She once killed a lover over jealousy, and that’s why she came to Hollywood to forget her one true love. She has a tattoo on her backside, un nopalito on her culito. She’s a walking contradiction, a hustler without regrets, and temptation enough for an army. She sings opera, she sings blues, she sings the soul right out of you.

The women of Hollywood hate her, call her junkie, whore, slut, puta. They say she wears falsies, they say she spreads diseases, they say she’s dying of syphilis, of gono, of drugs. They say she is too homely, too skinny, too flat chested. Bowlegged. Too, too, daark daaahling. They laugh at her Mexican accent. They say she is crazy. Don’t mess with her, they whisper, that Mexican spitfire is liable of anything. A-ny-thing. And Lupita lets them talk, lets the chismes spread. It’s good for my career, she says to her agent-doctor-dealer, as he offers a silk handkerchief filled with the rainbows of nepenthe.

Ay Lupita, Lupe Vélez, alone, curled up on her brass bed, eyes half- closed, nodding, is very, very human. If she cuts, she bleeds; if she’s hurt, she cries; if she’s happy, she smiles. And she’s very happy right now with a dozen pills speeding to her heart that melts like a school girl in love. The chismes don’t matter.

Maria Guadalupe Vélez doesn’t feel a thing.

Let them talk. Que digan eso de mi.

Alejandro Murguía is the author of Southern Front, This War Called Love— both winners of the American Book Award—and The Medicine of Memory. He is a founding member and the first director of The Mission Cultural Center. He was a founder of The Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, and co-editor of Volcán: Poetry From Central America. A professor in Latina Latino Studies at San Francisco State University, his latest book is Spare Poems, while a new collection, Native Tongue, is out this year. He is the sixth San Francisco Poet Laureate, the first Latino poet to hold the position. His website is

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