Yolanda "Tongolele" Montes

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Yolanda Montes "Tongolele"
Born Yolanda Yvonne Montes Farrington
(1932-01-03)January 3, 1932
Spokane, Washington, United States
Nationality Mexican
Occupation vedette
Years active 1947-present
Spouse(s) Joaquín González

Yolanda Yvonne Montes Farrington (born on January 3, 1932 in Spokane, Washington, United States),[1] better known by her stage-name Tongolele, is a Mexican vedette and actress of American origin. She is one of the most famous dancers on the American continents.


Yolanda Yvonne Montes Farrington, was born in Spokane, Washington, United States, on January 3, 1932. Her father, Elmer Sven Móntes, descended from a Spanish father and a Swedish mother. Her mother, Edna Pearl Farrington, of English father and French mother. Her maternal grandmother, Molly (Maeva), had blood Tahitiana in her veins. Since her childhood, she discovered her passion for the dance and worked in the International Ballet of San Francisco, California as part of a Tahitian Revue.[2]

She arrived to Mexico in 1947. She was hired as a dancer by Américo Mancini, famous theater impresario of the time. She debuted with great success in the famous Cabaret Tívoli in Mexico City.[3] Her stage name, "Tongolele", chose her after mixing African and Tahitian words.[4]

Her career was sheltered by theatrical success in the main theaters and cabarets of Mexico City. Tongolele boosted the success of the "Exoticas", a group of vedettes that caused sensation in Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Although other vedettes that became popular at the time (like "Kalantán" and Su Muy Key) appeared, none reached the levels of popularity of Tongolele. Yolanda was baptized by Mexican journalist Carlos Estrada Lang as "The Queen of Tahitian Dances", as each night she congregated a wide male audience who adored her perfect silhouette and feline movements that marked an era in Mexico.[5]

The impact that Tongolele caused in nightclubs caught the attention of film producers. She made her film debut in 1948 in the film Nocturne of Love, starring the actress Miroslava Stern. In 1948, she stars in the popular film ¡Han matado a "Tongolele"!, directed by Roberto Gavaldón, and where she shares credits with the actor David Silva. The plot was developed in the theater Folies Bergère of Mexico City, in whose stage could fit a spectacle with music and dances. At another level of the plot, several envious people attempted to assassinate her. The film premiered on September 30, 1948, was highly appreciated by the public, detested by critics, and for some it was the worst movie of the year. However, over time it has become a cult movie.[6]

Although in the majority of her cinematographic interventions she only appears like invited star performing her routines of dance, was the only one of her contemporaries "Exóticas" in having a considerable cinematographic career. As a guest, she stars in such films as El rey del barrio (1949) and Kill Me Because I'm Dying! (1951), alongside Germán Valdés "Tin Tan"; Si...mi vida (1951), with Lilia Michel and Rafael Baledón, or the musical Música de siempre (1956), where appears with figures like Libertad Lamarque and Edith Piaf.

However, at that time, in Mexico City, the so-called "League of Decency" protested for the slightest symptom of eroticism. Night shows begin to decline considerably in the second half of the 1950s. In 1957, Tongolele pauses in her career and leaves temporarily from Mexico, returning in the mid-1960s.

In 1966, she returns to the cinema and participates in the terror film The Panther Women, alongside Ariadne Welter and Elizabeth Campbell. In 1968 she acts in the film El crepusculo de un dios, directed and carried out by Emilio Fernández. In 1971, Tongolele plays in the Mexican-American co-production Isle of the Snake People. In the film, Tongolele appeared alongside the legendary American actor Boris Karloff. The plot of the film was located on a small island in the middle of the ocean where some beautiful young women are transformed into blue-faced man-eating zombies. Tongolele played the role of Kalea, the dancer with the snake. In the mid-1960s, CBS recorded an disc titled "Tongolele sings for you" which included 10 songs.[7]

With the rise of Mexico City's nightlife in the 1970s and the rise of the vedettes, Tongolele resumed her career in nightclubs and movies, as well as appearing on television shows. In 1984 it debuts in telenovelas in a special performance in the melodrama La pasión de Isabela.

In 2001 she reappears in Mexican television in the telenovela Salomé.

Between 2011 and 2013, Tongolele participated in the successful musical stage play Perfume of Gardenia[8]

In 2012, the vedette returned to the cinema with a brief appearance in the film El fantástico mundo de Juan Orol.

Personal life[edit]

In 1956, she married Cuban Joaquin Gonzalez in New York City, who accompanied her until his death. He was known as "The Magician of the Drum" for the masterful way he played the tumbadora and other percussion instruments. In 1976, Joaquín suffered cardiac problems and he was given a pacemaker. On December 22, 1996 he died in his home with his wife by his side. With him, Tongolele had two children in 1950, Ruben and Ricardo (twins). The month she gave birth, she surprised the whole public and returned to dance.[9]





  • Her famous white tuft in the hair was adapted by Tongolele after witnessing a corrida of the bullfighter Luis Procuna, only that the lock of Procuna was natural.
  • Tongolele along with other Exoticas of her time were honored by Dámaso Pérez Prado and Beny Moré in a mambo called The Mangoleles.[10]
  • A Mexican journalist from the yellow press even claimed that "Stalin sends Tongolele" and demanded that everyone join in against the "evil" she meant.[11]
  • In the famous Tropicana Club of Cuba, Tongolele appeared in the show The Panther Goddess. She performed with Josephine Baker.[12]
  • She was attacked for her dances and clothing, but also received the defense of personalities as writers and journalists. Luis Spota, Efraín Huerta, Octavio Paz and Carlos Monsivais were among her main defenders.
  • Tongolele has also worked as a sculptor and painter. She has exhibited her works three times.



  • Su, Margo; Leduc, Renato (1989) Alta Frivolidad (High Frivolity), México, ed. Cal y Arena, ISBN 9789684931879
  • García Hernández, Arturo (1998) No han matado a "Tongolele" (They have not killed "Tongolele"), México, ed. La Jornada Ediciones, ISBN 9789686719383
  • Agrasánchez Jr., Rogelio (2001) Bellezas del Cine Mexicano (Beauties of the Mexican Cinema), México, ed. Archivo fílmico Agrasánchez, ISBN 968-5077-11-8

External links[edit]