María Eugenia Llamas

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María Eugenia Llamas
Born María Eugenia Llamas
Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico 1944
Other names La Tucita
Occupation Actress, Story teller
Spouse(s) Romulo Lozano  (m. 1966–96)

María Eugenia Llamas is best known for her roles as "La Tucita" in the Golden Age of Mexican cinema in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. She began appearing in these films in 1948 at the age of four. She is the winner of the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar, the Premio Ariel Mexicano. While she appeared in many movies after her childhood, she is less known for them. However, she remains popular in Mexico and in the rest of the Hispanic world for her radio and television appearances, for her on-stage story telling talent and as a live theater actress. She is the 2007 recipient of the Diploma Medalla al Mérito (Medal of Merit) award from the Spanish American Itinerate Academy of Itinerate Oral Narration for her talented on-stage story telling. She is a widow, a mother and a grandmother. She now lives in Monterrey, Mexico. Every public mention of her is still accompanied by her childhood screen name, "La Tucita".

Introduction[edit]

María Eugenia Llamas, who played unforgettable roles as a small child, is to Mexico much like Shirley Temple Black is in the United States. She was born in 1944 in Mexico City. There is little published about her parents. Her father, Jose Maria Llamas, is Basque and hails from the Rioja region in Spain. Her mother, Maria Andresco, was half Lithuanian/Catholic and half Jewish/Ukrainian. They immigrated to Mexico from Spain in 1939 as refugees from the Spanish Civil War and remained advocates of the lost Republican side of that war.[1] An article on her half brother says their father's name was José Llamas.[2]

Golden Age of Mexican cinema[edit]

Pocket Gopher (Tuza in Spanish)

María Eugenia Llamas made her film debut in 1948 during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. She played several very memorable child roles, with Golden Age super stars Pedro Infante and Sara Garcia, under the screen name of "La Tucita", which translates literally as a small pocket gopher. The name is a combination of the Spanish word for pocket gopher, tuza (sometimes taltuza) and the Spanish diminutive "ita" at the end, which makes the word mean a small pocket gopher (much like "doggy" in English implies a small dog).[3] Her unforgettable portrayal of Tucita in the Golden Age classics, Los Tres Huastecos and Dicen Que Soy Mujeriego, with Golden Age superstar Pedro Infante remain her most remembered film roles. It is only possible to understand how her lasting fame results from these two classics by briefly summarizing them and explaining her role in them.[4] Further, the photos accompanying these summaries, show her acting style and her essential part in the development of the story lines of these two Golden Age classics.

Los Tres Huastecos (The Three Men from Huasteca)[edit]

María Eugenia Llamas was selected for her screen debut when she was only three, at which age first met the late Mexican super star, Pedro Infante, who is still known among his many fans as "The Idol (El Idolo)".[5] When she was only four and barely more than a toddler, she co-starred with him as "La Tucita" in the 1948 classic film Los Tres Huastecos (The Three Men from Huasteca). Huasteca is the Mexican region in which the city of Veracruz is located. In María's screen debut, her feisty acting style stole scene after scene from no less than the "idol", Pedro Infante himself.[6] In this movie, Pedro Infante played in three separate roles as each of three individual triplets.

According to the movie, the triplets were separated at birth and brought up in different parts of Huasteca by separate families. As a result, they became three very different people. One of the Pedro Infante triplets became a village priest, another became the commander of the village military detachment and the third became a rough hewn saloon owner, avowed atheist and gambler. In the movie, when anything dramatic happened to any one of those triplets, the other two feel it. María Eugenia Llama convincingly played the part of the very young daughter of the rough hewn Pedro Infante triplet.

In the movie, the villain "El Coyote", whose identity was unknown, was killing and robbing people near the village where the Military Pedro Infante triplet was the commander and whose job it was to find El Coyote. The Military Pedro Infante also had a romantic interest in a village girl, Maritoña (María Blanca Estela Pavón), who flirts with him, but firmly rejects all his advances. The Military triplet suspects his triplet, Tucita's father of being El Coyote. Others are nearly sure of it.

In Tucita's first appearance in the movie, she has a snake and a tarantula as pets, both of which she handles with love. She also pushes around her otherwise hardened Pedro Infante father shamelessly. For instance, she shoots at him with a pistol and misses. Then, she starts crying. Her Pedro Infante father asks her if she is crying because she shot at him. She responds tearfully that no, she is crying because she didn't kill him – which doesn't make him mad.

In another scene, when she is in bed, she keeps pestering her father for one thing after another, to which he always complies, if visibly annoyed. Finally, she calls to him in the next room that she is thirsty and demands a glass of water. When he grudgingly brings it, she waters her plant with it instead of drinking it – which also makes him upset, but not angry with her.

It is her father's stoic acceptance (while sometimes visibly upset) of everything Tucita does to him that shows the movie audience that he has a soft spot and is not as thoroughly corrupt as he is otherwise portrayed in the first part of the movie. Nevertheless, the Priest Pedro Infante takes an interest in the physical and spiritual welfare of his niece, Tucita. He sometimes puts on a false mustache to disguise himself in the movie as his otherwise identical brother to look in on her, which disguise does fool her. She just can't figure out why her "father" is acting so differently.

Tucita's real father is finally formally accused of being El Coyote. However, the priest identical triplet is the one who gets arrested and held in the village jail, because, disguised with a mustache like his brother, he is mistaken for Tucita's father. A mob tries to get to him in his cell to hang him. Tucita's Pedro Infante father and military Pedro Infante overcome the real Coyote (Alejandro Ciangherotti), while he is trying to kill them, and get him to confess in writing that he is Coyote. They place Tucita's pet tarantula on his chest, which scares the confession out of him. Tucita wags her finger at him and righteously tells him off. That confession, when presented to the authorities absolves Tucita's father and saves the priest Pedro Infante from the clutches of both the mob and the law. After all that, her father turns over a new leaf and takes Tucita to church for the first time. They kneel before the altar and he lovingly shows her how to make the sign of the cross. As the movie ends, military Pedro Infante wins over the girl and the Priest Pedro Infante and Tucita's Father Pedro Infante look on with great joy that all has turned out so well as their brother rides off with his lady love.

Dicen que Soy Mujeriego (They Say I am a Womanizer)[edit]

Tucita Arriving at Ranch

Her next movie role, also as Tucita, was in the 1949 classic film Dicen que Soy un Mujeriego (They Say I am a Womanizer). In this film, Tucita again co-starred with Pedro Infante as well as with Golden Age Mexican super star Sara Garcia ("Mexico's grandmother").[7] In this comedy, Pedro Infante is Sara Garcia's ("Dona Rosa") philandering grandson. Dona Rosa is a prominent rancher. She deeply loves Pedro, but is constantly trying to get him to behave – with no success. Throughout the movie, Pedro keeps getting notes from a secret female admirer, "Anonimo", which both say he is handsome, but then go on to insult him by pointing out his phildandering ways in dirvisive terms. Pablo is entregued by these notes, wondering which admirar is reisting his charms.

While Pedro is ever popular with the ladies, he has his eye on Flor (Silvia Derbez), the niece of a neighboring rancher. Flor flirts with him and plays him off against the disreputable saloon owner and town mayor, Pablo (Rodolfo Landa). Flor flirts with Pablo shamelessly, leading him to believe that he has a chance with her, if he could only get Pedro out of the way. Pedro and Pablo sit together drinking in Pablo's saloon, where the singer and dancer Luciérnaga (Amalia Aguilar) does a fiery dance. One of the bar patron's is so overcome with the moment that he grabs her and kisses her hard. Pedro hops to his feet and decks the offender. Luciérnaga responds by exclaiming, "Thanks handsome." A short time later, she sends Pedro an invitation, though Bartolo, to join her in her room, which Pedro quickly accepts.

Flor is also Dona Rosa's choice for Pedro. She offers Pedro advice as to how to court her. But, Flor continues to coyly sidestep his advances. In desperation, Pedro publicly drops all his other girl friends by singing his farewell to them from horseback in the village square, singing that they will always remain as a "butterfly in his soul". They all take it badly. Finally, after a series of misadventures, Pedro does win over Flor and she agrees to marry him. After trying to win her over by singing her a song while she is milking a cow at her ranch (followed by the usual rejection) Pedro tells his sidekick Bartolo to let a bull calf out of its pen to scare Flor. However, always inappropriate, Bartolo lets a full grown bull out of its pen instead, which chases Flor up an apple tree. Pedro ropes the bull from horse back and leads it back to its pen. However, Flor cannot get out of the apple tree and she does not want Pedro looking up her dress, which he would have to do to help her down. He promises to close his eyes but cannot help but take a peek. Furious, Flor starts to throw apples at him, which causes her to fall out of the tree. Pedro rushes to her aid, but finds her apparently unconscious. Pedro kisses her and she comes to. He starts to explain that he was only trying to give her artificial respiration, but she unexpectedly kisses him back. And thus begins their romance.

However, when Pablo hears of this development, he is outraged and swears that he is going to do something about it. Luciérnaga means "firefly" in Spanish. When Pedro goes to Luciérnaga to tell her that he cannot see her any more, she tells Pedro that she expects him to marry her. Pedro quickly ends his relationship with her. Luciérnaga tells him that "fireflies also have stingers" and swears to herself that he is going to pay. Luciérnaga goes to Pablo, who has just gotten word of Flor's engagement to Pedro, to ask him, as town mayor, to lock up Pedro for the shameful way he had treated her. At which point, he tells her that he has a better idea.

That evening, Tucita shows up for the first time in movie on Dona Rosa's mare at the entrance to her ranch. When Dona Rosa asks Tucita tenderly what she is doing on her mare, Tucita says her mother told her that Dona Rosa was her "granny". Dona Rosa lovingly takes Tucita from the mare and takes her into the ranch house. She sets her down and gets Tucita to show her a letter she is carrying from Tucita's "mother", which says that Tucita is Pedro's daughter. The letter is signed "your victim". The clincher is that Tucita has a photo of Pedro on a string around her neck. Dona Rosa needs little convincing. She strokes Tucita's hair lovingly and tells Tucita that she "alone is the victim".

At this point, Pedro comes home leading a band and roaring drunk, celebrating his engagement to Flor. Dona Rosa runs off the band and drags Pedro into the house to meet Tucita, telling him that she has a "little present" for him. Pedro is very confused by Tucita's presence and asks Dona Rosa if she is being serious. She assures him that she is. There is then both a humorous and sadly touching scene in which Tucita immediately takes to Pedro as her father, while Pedro tries to figure out what is going on through a drunken haze. He asks Tucita who she is. Tucita addresses him as "papa". Dona Rosa and Pedro show Tucita photos of all Pedro's lady friends, but Tucita does not identify any as her mother. Pedro counts his fingers, considers which lady friends he had seen about the time of Tucita's conception and decides that he could not possibly be Tucita's father – a conclusion Dona Rosa angrily rejects.

Honorably, Dona Rosa goes to Flor right away and tells her about Tucita. Flor asks her who is Tucita's mother. Dona Rosa responds that perhaps it is true that Pedro does not even know himself. Flor, deeply hurt, is also quick to believe it and angrily breaks off her engagement with Pedro. Flor goes to Dona Rosa's ranch to see Tucita for herself. She finds Tucita at the well scolding her puppy "Pulgacita" (small flea) for being a womanizer. Throughout the movie Tucita repeats to her puppy a lot of what she hears the adults around her saying as a way of showing the viewers how impressionable she is. Flor lifts Tucita to the well and Tucita shows her the photo of her "father" on the string around her neck. Flor tells her tearfully that she cannot "struggle" against her. Pablo later approaches Flor to try to tell her that he could not possibly be Tucita's father. However, Flor will not listen, which makes Pablo very angry and frustrated. He tells her, "You condemn without listening to me" and stomps off.

The disreputable Pablo then makes a big play for her, even suggesting that Flor should marry him out of "spite", as a way to get back at Pedro. He tells her, if that is the reason she marries him, he would accept it. Pedro gets very upset that Dona Rosa will not believe him when he says he is not Tucita's father. He stomps out, with Dona Rosa yelling after him not to leave. He goes on a drunken binge, finally coming home drunk and singing for forgiveness in the courtyard of Dona Rosa's ranch. At the end of the song, Dona Rosa goes out and brings him in. She then agrees that she should not have been sticking her nose in Pedro's affairs. She agrees to help him win Flor back. Together, they go over to Flor's where in a buggy Pedro sings for Flor to take him back. She waivers, but in the end cannot bring herself to take him back. However, in the end and after much struggling with the decision, Flor rejects Pablo and tells him that she is going to marry Pedro anyway, despite everything.

About this time, Pedro discovers Tucita's pretend mother, Luciérnaga. Pablo's henchmen had her under guard to keep her quiet. Recall that Luciérnaga had been a singer in Pablo's saloon and is a spiteful former girl friend of Pedro. Luciérnaga means "firefly" in Spanish. When she said she expected Pedro to marry her, Pedro ended his relationship with her. Luciérnaga tells him that "fireflies also have stingers" and swears to herself that he is going to pay. However, after Pablo had put her under guard, she has had a change of heart. Pedro frees her and she tells Pedro that Pablo had taken Tucita from an orphanage, had her, pretending to be Tucita's mother, dupe Tucita into thinking she was Pedro's daughter. She then sent Tucita off to Dona Rosa's ranch to unwittingly frame Pedro. Pedro confronts Pablo and they fight. Pablo ends up in a lake and starts to drown. Pedro nobly swims out and saves him.

In the last scene of the movie, Pedro and Flor come out of the village cathedral after their marriage. However, just outside the cathedral his sidekick Bartolo hands him another note from Anonimo. He tries to tell Bartolo that his timing was very bad and Dona Rosa asks Pedro if he is sorry for his previous interest in Anonimo. Before he can answer, Flor pipes up that she is Anonimo. Yet, even at this moment when all seems to be resolved, Pedro pays too much attention to a passing beauty by exclaiming "Válgame Dios (roughly translated "Heaven Help Me!")". Tucita then also exclaims from the wedding party "Válgame Dios!" – showing one and all that despite her non-granddaughter status, she has not lost her place in Dona Rosa's home or heart. Dona Rosa then drags an unreformed Pedro off by the ear as the movie ends.

Premio Ariel (Mexican Oscar)[edit]

María Eugenia Llamas was nominated for the Premio Ariel Mexicano (Mexican equivalent of the Oscar) for her role in this movie, but did not win. María Eugenia Llamas did finally win the Ariel Award in 1952 for her role in her much less remembered 1950 movie, "Los Niños Miran al Cielo (The Children Look to Heaven)."[8] María went on to make many more movies, both as a child and as an adult. However, her first two remain her classics. In this respect, she is much like Judy Garland, who had a long film and stage career in the United States, but she is still best remembered for her role as "Dorothy" in Wizard of Oz. In the case of both those actresses, those performances were hard acts to follow.[9]

Super Stars Pedro Infante and Sara Garcia[edit]

Tucita, Pedro Infante & Sara Garcia

María Eugenia Llamas and Pedro Infante maintained a cordial relationship for the following ten years, until his untimely death on April 15, 1957. Pedro Infante was an avid pilot. He was piloting his own multiengine plane to Mexico City, when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Mérida, Yucatán causing his tragic death, along with the deaths of his co-pilot and the engineer.[10] Pedro Infante is still widely honored in Mexico, much like Elvis Presley is in the United States.[11] They still call him "The Idol".[12] Further, like Elvis Presley, some people are so unaccepting of his death that they maintain that he faked his death and is still alive.[13] Tucita's other Golden Age co-star Sara Garcia died, at the age of 85, on November 21, 1980 in Mexico City after she fell down some stairs, fatally striking her head.[14]

Later life[edit]

In the 1980s, María Eugenia Llamas served as the Cultural Director of Mexican Social Security (ISSSTE or Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales).[15] In 1987, Cuban born author and master of the stage Garzón Céspedes persuaded her to take up public story telling, which she started and has continued ever since.[16] Through her on-stage story telling, she became and remains active in the promotion of Mexican culture.[17] She has done her story telling, sometimes sponsored by the Mexican government, throughout Mexico as well as in Spain, Venezuela and Columbia and even the United States. For these efforts, she became the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Diploma Medalla al Mérito (Medal of Merit) for her sixty years of creative and successful artistic and cultural achievement. This award comes from the Spanish American Itinerate Academy of Itinerate Oral Narration (La Cátedra Iberoamericana Itinerante de Narración Oral Escénica), which is the most prestigious institution in the field of on-stage story telling. It is headquartered in Mexico City and Madrid and was founded under the direction of her mentor, the venerable theater maestro Cuban, Francisco Garzón.[18]

The family of María Eugenia Llamas[edit]

Her late sister María Victoria Llamas "Mariví" also gained fame in her own right. She was a well-known author and telejournalist in Mexico City, who often wrote on feminist topics. She won the Premio Nacional de Periodismo three times and authored five books. Most notable was her collection of short stories entitled "Que Le Cuento (What Can I Tell You)". She also starred in many Spanish-language movies. She appeared in the movies "Un Divorcio" (A Divorce)(1953), "Menores de Edad" (Under Age Minors) (1951), "Angelitos Negros" (Little Black Angels)(1948), "Ya Tengo a Mi Hijo" (Now I Hold My Son) (1948).[19] She died in Mexico City on January 5, 2007 at the age of 67 after a long bout with Hepatitis C and cancer of the liver.[20] Their half brother, José Ángel Llamas is a well-known and very popular television actor in Mexico. His striking good looks make him quite the heart throb among his many fans.[21] María Victoria Llamas gave Jose Angel his start in television.[22]

María Eugenia Llamas established her residence in Monterrey, Mexico, where she became the object of much local pride. There, she married Rómulo Lozano in 1966, who was a popular announcer and actor in Mexico.[23] Rómulo Lozano was for twenty eight years the emcee and straight man of a variety/talent show called "Mira Que Bonito (Look How Nice)" with his zany co-stars Raúl Salcedo "Cascarita" and Esperancita Berrones, which is still well remembered as a legendary television program on Channel 12 in Monterrey and in northern México. Rómulo Lozano also appeared in several movies in the 1980s. He appeared in "Los Peseros (Fixed Rate Taxi Drivers)" (1984), "El Traficante II (The Trafficker II)"(1984), "Ratas de la Frontera (Border Rats)" (1984), Sebástian, "Cazador de Asesinos (Hunter of Murderers)" (1983), Priest, "El Traficante (The Trafficker)" (1983), "Silencio Asesino (Quiet Killer)" (1983), Ramón Pedraza, "Pistoleros Famosos (Famous Gunmen)"(1981), Jerónimo Marichalar [24] Rómulo Lozano died on January 26, 1996 in Monterrey, Mexico of heart disease.[25]

She has children and grandchildren and she describes her family as the true success story of her life. Her son, Fernando Lozano is also a well-known actor and host of TV Azteca's "Venga la Alegria".[26] He plays the part of his father in tributes to him. He also appeared on the stage in Defending the Caveman and with his mother in the theatrical comedy "Si Te Casas Te Aplasto (If You Get Married, I Will Crush You)."[27]

Life in Monterrey[edit]

She keeps a tarantula as a pet in memory of her pet tarantula in "Los Tres Haustecos." She is still often interviewed about her memories of Pedro Infante and often appears in and at tributes to him. His memory is inseparably linked to her and she is one of the few people still alive who worked with him. Photos of "La Tucita" and Pedro Infante alone and together abound on the internet, as well as in the collective memory of nearly all Mexicans and many others who have seen her movies.[28] Every mention of this much admired lady is still always followed by an affectionate "La Tucita".

Filmography[edit]

  • Más Allá de Mí/Farther From Me (2008). La Tucita
  • El Criminal' ... aka El Gatillo de la Muerte (The Criminal aka The Trigger of Death) (USA) (1985)
  • Cazador de Asesinos' (Hunter of Murderers) (1983) .... Dra. Campos
  • El Gatillo de la Muerte (The Trigger of Death) (1980)
  • La Edad de la Tentación (The Age of Temptation) (1959) (as María Eugenia Llamas "Tucita")
  • Venganza en el Circo (Vengeance in the Circus) (1954) (as María Eugenia Llamas "Tusita") .... Pulguita
  • La Segunda Mujer (The Second Woman) (1953) (as María Eugenia Llamas 'Tucita')
  • Una Calle Entre Tú y Yo (The Street Between You and Me) (1952) (as Ma. Eugenia Llamas 'Tusita')
  • Los Hijos de La Calle (The Sons of the Street) (1951) (as María Eugenia Llamas 'Tusita')
  • Las Dos Huerfanitas (The Two Little Orphan Girls) (1950) (as María Eugenia Llamas 'Tusita')
  • Los Niños Miran al Cielo (The Children Look to Heaven) (1950)
  • El Seminarista (The Theological Student) (1949) .... Tucita
  • Dicen Que Soy Mujeriego (They Say that I Am a Womanizer) (1949) .... La Tucita
  • Los Tres Huastecos (The Three Men from Huasteca) (1948) .... Tucita

TV shows[edit]

  • ¡Pedro Infante Vive! (Pedro Infante Lives) (2007).... Herself
  • La Historia Detrás del Mito (The Story Behind the Myth)" .... Herself (1 episode, 2006)
  • Estrellas Infantiles del Cine Mexicano (Child Stars of Mexican Cinema) (2006) TV episode .... Herself

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary for her sister
  2. ^ TV Azteca
  3. ^ Another example of the use of this diminutive known to most English speakers is that a "Senora" is a full grown lady and a "Senorita" is a little or young lady.
  4. ^ She said herself in a newspaper interview that most thought she had "retired" after her childhood roles. (Spanish) La Cronica de Hoy
  5. ^ (Spanish) Biography of Pedro Infante
  6. ^ (Spanish) Jose Ernesto Infante Quintanilla, "Pedro Infante -- El Idolo Imortal",Editorial Oceano de Mexico, S.A. De C.V. (2006) p. 68.
  7. ^ Mexico's Grandmother
  8. ^ The Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ (Spanish) María Eugenia Llamas, La fama es una pompa de jabón (Fame is a Soap Bubble)
  10. ^ (Spanish) Biografias and Vidas
  11. ^ Chavez, Denise, "Loving Pedro Infante", Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2001, p. 5. This author states: "Some people call [Pedro Infante] the Bing Crosby of Mexico, but he's more, much more than that. He was bigger than Bing Crosby or even Elvis Presley."
  12. ^ (Spanish) Espectaculos Biografia de Pedro Infante
  13. ^ (Spanish) Jose Ernesto Infante Quintanilla, "Pedro Infante -- El Idolo Imortal", Editorial Oceano de Mexico, S.A. De C.V.(2006) p. 162.
  14. ^ (Spanish) La Abuelita Nacional -- Sara Garcia
  15. ^ (Spanish) La Cronica de Hoy
  16. ^ Francisco Garzón Céspedes Web Site
  17. ^ La Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León
  18. ^ (Spanish) Guía Cultural
  19. ^ (Spanish) Milenio On Line
  20. ^ (Spanish) Vivir México.
  21. ^ (Spanish) People en Espanol
  22. ^ Bio of Jose Angel Llamas
  23. ^ Sepulveda, Jesus, Cronicas del Genio
  24. ^ Internet Movie Database
  25. ^ Internet Movie Database
  26. ^ (Spanish) Interview with son, Fernando Lozano
  27. ^ (Spanish) Fernando Lozano Web Site
  28. ^ Pedro Infante article

External links[edit]