María Elena Velasco

This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Velasco and the second or maternal family name is Fragoso.
María Elena Velasco
Birth name María Elena Velasco-Fragoso
Born (1940-12-17)17 December 1940
Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
Died 1 May 2015(2015-05-01) (aged 74)
Mexico City, Mexico
Medium Film, television, music, theatre
Nationality Mexican
Years active 1962–2015
Genres Character comedy, slapstick
Subject(s) Indigenous Mexican women
Spouse Julián de Meriche (married 19??–27 July 1974; his death); 3 children

María Elena Velasco-Fragoso (17 December 1940 – 1 May 2015) was a Mexican actress, comedian, singer-songwriter, dancer, screenwriter, film producer, and one of Mexico's few major female film directors.[1][2]

She is best known for creating and portraying La India María, a comical character based on indigenous Mexican women, in films and television programs.

Early life

Velasco was born in Puebla, to Tomás Velasco, a railway mechanic, and María Elena Fragoso.[3] She had three siblings, Gloria, Tomás and Susana.[3]

After the death of Tomás Velasco, the family moved to Mexico City, where she worked as a dancer at the Teatro Tívoli.[3][4] Later, she became one of the showgirls of the Teatro Blanquita, where she also participated in sketches starring comedians such as José "El Ojón" Jasso and Óscar Ortiz de Pinedo, among others.[3]


In 1962, her popularity at the Teatro Blanquita attracted the attention of producer Miguel Morayta, who cast her in her first film role in the drama Los derechos de los hijos (1963), starring Elvira Quintana and Carlos Agostí. Juan Bustillo Oro gave her the small part of Petra, a maid, in México de mis recuerdos (1963).[3] In 1964, she began to include comedic material to her appearances in sketches and, in the meantime, played servants in television programs.[3] She soon developed a comedy character named Elena María, a rural Mexican woman.[3] Her breakthrough came when director Fernando Cortés recommended her to portray an indigenous woman named "María" in one of Mantequilla's sketches.[3] The character was dressed in traditional garb consisting of traditionally braided and ribboned hair and colorful native-type blouses and skirts.[3] In an effort to make her portrayal more authentic, she observed the gestures and mannerisms of indigenous women; her own mother made dresses for the character. She later appeared in the western El bastardo (1968), where she was credited for the first time as "María Elena Velasco 'La India María'".[3]

In 1969, Velasco appeared as La India María in a comic segment of the weekly program Siempre en domingo, hosted by Raúl Velasco. The segment quickly became a hit and she starred in other successful television programs.[3] Her first La India María vehicle, Tonta, tonta, pero no tanto (1972), was directed by Fernando Cortés; in total, Cortés directed eight La India María films until his death in 1979. The enormous success of the film spawned a series of low-budget comedies that became a mainstay in Mexican movie theaters. Velasco won a Silver Goddess Award for Best Comedic Performance for ¡El que no corre... vuela! (1982).[4] She made her directorial debut in El coyote emplumado (1983). She also starred the television series Ay María, qué puntería (1998).[5]

Personal life

In the early 1960s, Velasco met Russian-born Mexican film actor and choreographer[6] Julián de Meriche (born Vladimir Lipkies Chazan) at the Teatro Blanquita.[3] They married and had three children, producer-director Iván Lipkies, writer-actress Goretti Lipkies, and writer-producer Ivette Lipkies.[7] She later said: "My husband was worth gold, I will not lie and say he was the perfect man, but he was the love of my life."[7]


Her death was announced over Twitter by the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía on 1 May 2015; the cause of death was not made public, but it was known that she had been suffering from stomach cancer.[8]


Velasco has starred in approximately 23 films in Mexico, and 3 television series. She received an Ariel Award in 2004 for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film Huapango (a film not of the India María series).[9]

La India María series

Year Title Role
1972 Tonta, tonta, pero no tanto María Nicolasa Cruz
1973 ¡Pobre, pero honrada! María Nicolasa Cruz
1974 Algo es algo, dijo el diablo María Nicolasa Cruz
1974 La madrecita Sor María Nicolasa Cruz
1975 La presidenta municipal María Nicolasa Cruz
1976 El miedo no anda en burro María Nicolasa Cruz
1977 Sor Tequila María Nicolasa del Sagrado Corazón/Sor Tequila
1978 Duro pero seguro María Nicolasa Cruz
1978 La comadrita María Nicolasa Cruz
1981 Okey, Mister Pancho María Nicolasa Cruz
1982 ¡El que no corre... vuela! María Nicolasa Cruz
1983 El coyote emplumado María
1984 Ni Chana, ni Juana Juana Cruz/Emilia Falcón (Luciana)
1988 Ni de aqui, ni de alla María
1993 Se equivocó la cigueña María
1999 Las delicias del poder María/Lorena Barriga
2014 La hija de Moctezuma María Nicolasa Cruz [10]

Other films

Year Title Role Notes
2004 Huapángo Dance instructor


Year Title Role Notes
1972 Revista musical Nescafe La India María
1988 Papá soltero La India María
1998–2004 ¡Ay María qué puntería! La India María
2003 La hora pico La India María
2003 Mujer, Casos de la Vida Real María 1 episode – Amor Incondicional
2004 La familia P. Luche La India María Season 1 episode 38 – Nos vamos de viaje
2013 Corazón indomable María Nicolasa Cruz de Olivares


  1. Biographical Dictionary of Mexican Film Performers: "U-Z".
  2. Google books, Women filmmakers in Mexico: the country of which we dream, Elissa Rashkin, 2001, p. 76.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "La India María", La historia detras del mito. Azteca; accessed 4 May 2015.
  4. 1 2 "VELASCO, María Elena". Escritores del cine. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  5. "Mañana da inicio "Ay María, que puntería"". El Siglo de Torreón. 5 January 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  6. Julián de Meriche profile,; accessed 4 May 2015.
  7. 1 2 Mora, Angélica (21 October 2014). "María Elena Velasco, 'La India María' nos revela porqué ¡no se volvió a casar!". TVNotas. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  8. "Fallece María Elena Velasco, 'La India María'". Excelsior. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  9. "Famous Mexican Actors and Actresses". Buzzle. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  10. Graban película de “La India María” – Diario Eyipantla Milenio., 24 May 2011; retrieved 14 July 2012.
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