Our 15 Favorite Marias

You know the song: The most beautiful sound I ever heard; All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word—Maria; I just met a girl named Maria.

Over the past 15 years at Latina we have met many Marias; some journalists, some fashion designers, some fictional, some icons, some boats. Check out the extraordinary and exceptional Latinas that made the list of our 15 favorite Maria's of all-time! And then feel free to yell at us about who we left off, because boy did we fight about it in the office... 

1. Favorite Marias: Virgen de Guadalupe

Santa Maria, Virgen del Guadalupe

Why We Love Her: She's the mother of Mexico, and the country's patron saint. Her face is displayed all over the country on everything from T-shirts to key chains and bumper stickers. She's easily one of the most recognizable Marias of all-time.




2. Favorite Marias: Maria Felix

María Félix

Why We Love Her: Just how exceptional was María Félix, one of the biggest icons of Mexican cinema? Just look at all of the artisists who used her as their muse. Songwriters Agustin Lara and Juan Gabriel wrote songs for and about her (Lara wrote the classic "Maria Bonita" while Gabriel wrote "María de Todas las Marías"). The Mexican born actress of Spanish descent was also painted by many artists including Diego Rivera, Leonor Fini and Bridget Tichenor and she was dressed by top designers Christian Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Balenciaga. The House of Hermes designed extravagant clothing just for her.  


3. Favorite Marias: Maria Conchita Alonso

Maria Conchita Alonso
Why We Love Her: She acts, she sings, she wins beauty pageants and she's a die-hard political activist. In short, there's nothing that Maria Conchita Alonso can't do. Born in Cuba and raised in Venezuela, the 53-year-old Alonso was holding it down for Latinas all by herself in Hollywood during a time where there was no Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria. Crowned Miss Teenager of the World in 1971 and later Miss World/Venezuela in 1975, Alonso's first major role was opposite Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson (1984). Maria was also one of the first Latinas to star on Broadway when she was cast in the lead role of Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman. These days, Alonso is best known for her political activism, namely her outspokenness about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez 

4. Favorite Marias: Maria Full of Grace

"Maria Alvarez" (played by Catalina Sandino Moreno)

We We Love Her: Played by Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Alvarez in the indie hit Maria Full of Grace (2004) was a pregnant 17-year-old girl who worked at a flower plantation and became a drug mule to try to escape the tremendous challenges of her life. An immigrant story we hear about often, but what we loved about this story was Maria's incredible resiliency and personal strength. The character was bold, brave and poised. Moreno earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of this incredible Maria.

5. Favorite Marias: Thalia

"Maria Hernandez" and "Maria Mercedes"(played by Thalia

They don't call Mexican actress Thalia the queen of telenovelas for nothing! In 1992, the gorgeous actress starred as Maria Mercedes, a poor girl who is forced to raise her brothers and sister on her own after their mother abandons them in the telenovela, Maria Mercedes. We watched with baited breath as Maria fell in love with Jorge Luis (Arturo Peniche) and we sympathized with the young struggling girl as she fought time and time again with Jorge's evil mother, the no-nonsense Malvina and Jorge's evil ex-girlfriend, the evil Mistica (shoot, even her name is scary!). In 1996 Thalia became Maria again, this time Maria Hernandez in the Mexican telenovela, Maria La Del Barrio. Different soap, same story. We still watched. So, it seemed, did most of the world.

6. Favorite Marias: Sesame Street

"Maria" (played by Sonia Manzano on Sesame Street)

Maria (Sonia Manzano) moved on to the most popular street in the world in 1974. She was a teenager who moved into an apartment above Gordon and Susan and worked at the lending library. Sesame Street watchers have seen Maria grow from a young girl (she had her first love on the show) to a married woman with a grown daughter named Gabi. Maria and her husband Luis still run the Fix-It Shop, which specializes in toaster repair. We love Maria for inspiring children to be their best selves while bringing smiles to their, and our, faces.




7. Favorite Marias: Penelope Cruz in VCB

"Maria Elena" (played by Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

In Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Penelope Cruz played Maria Elena, the mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife of a bohemian artist named Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Maria Elena had major issues--she even confesses she had thoughts of killing Juan Antonio's new girlfriend, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson). What we love about Maria Elena is how unbelievably cocky and confident she is. In our favorite scenes from the movie, Maria Elena corrects Juan Antonio when he calls her talented (note: to Maria Elena, merely calling her talented is a huge insult). "I'm not talking about talent," she says. "I said "genious, genious," she explains. 

8. Favorite Marias: Santana's Maria Maria

"Maria Maria" (played by Carlos Santana)

Why We Love Her: This Maria fell in love in East L.A. to the sounds of Carlos Santana's guitar. The song (the second single off Santana's 2000 album, Supernatural) dominated the radio airwaves, spending ten weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won Santana a GRAMMY for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Featuring Product G & B and produced by Wyclef Jean, the hit single's exotic beats made us want to dance and the lyrics are an amazing love letter to an incredible woman. The song was so popular that in 2007, Carlos Santana opened a chain of music-themed Mexican restaurants in Northern California called "Maria Maria." 

9. Favorite Marias: Columbus's Santa Maria

La Santa Maria
Why We Love Her: Of all the Maria's in the history of the world, this Maria is the only one who's 70-feet long! Santa Maria de la Inmaculada Concepcion (as she is affectionately known to some history buffs), was the largest of the three ships used in Christopher Columbus' first voyage (bigger than the small caravel-type ships, La Pinta and La Niña). Ain't she a beaut?




10. Favorite Marias: Beautiful Maria My Soul

"Beautiful Maria of My Soul" from The Mambo Kings  (Music by Robert Kraft, Lyrics by Arne Glimcher and performed by Antonio Banderas)

Why We Love It: This timeless song about longing and love was featured in the 1992 film, The Mambo Kings, which was based on Oscar Hijuelos's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. In the film, Nestor Castillo (Antonio Banderas) writes the love song for his long-lost love, Maria Rivera (Talisa Soto). Without question "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" is one of the most touching movie love songs of all-time. The song was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Song category.

11. Favorite Marias: Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa

Why We Love Her: Mexican-American journalist Maria Hinojosa is a former Senior Correspondent for the PBS news magazine, NOW on PBS and she currently hosts her own interview talk show on PBS called Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One. Hinojosa is the author of several books, and she's won numerous awards including two Emmy's, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Radio Award. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine for her work as a reporter for CBS, NPR and CNN. 

12. Favorite Marias: West Side Story

"Maria" (played by Natalie Wood in West Side Story
In the 1961 film, West Side Story, Natalie Wood played a girl named Maria, a modern day Juliet. Maria (Wood) pines for Tony (Richard Beymer), but her family wants to see her with her fellow-Latino, Chino (Jose De Vega). What we've always admired about this Maria is that she isn't afraid to love with all of her heart, even when she has a feeling she'll end up heartbroken. 


13. Favorite Marias: Maria Cornejo

Maria Cornejo

First Lady Michelle Obama loves Chilean-born designer Maria Cornejo and we do too! In addition to being a clothing designer, Maria runs her own New York City business, zero + maria. Cornejo prides herself on designing a collection that is both simple and sophisticated. Her line is sold in top stores around the world, including Barrneys New York, Holt Renfrew in Canada, Ikram ChicagoBlake Chicago and Mac San Francisco. In 2006, Cornejo was honored as a Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award Winner. 



14. Favorite Marias: Dulce Maria

Dulce Maria

Why We Love Her: Mexicana Dulce Maria is a triple-threat: actress, singer and songwriter. The talented artist got her start on Plaza Sesamo, Mexico's equivalent of Sesame Street at the age of 8. When Dulce was a teenager, she landed her first big break with a leading role on the popular Mexican telenovela, Rebelde. And while her primary interest wasn't acting, the novela was responsible for launching her pop group RBD. While the group got its start on Rebelde, they quickly became one of the most popular acts in Latin America. 


15. Favorite Marias: Sonia Braga in SATC

"Maria" (Sex and the City), played by Sonia Braga 

Why we love her: Brazilian actress Sonia Braga is so sizzling hot that she caught the attention of Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood, both of whom she dated. So when Braga joined HBO's hit show, Sex and the City in the recurring role of Maria — a passionate Latina artist who becomes Samantha's (Kim Catrall) lesbian lover — we weren't surprised in the least that Braga and Catrall's sexual relationship on the show caught fuego fast. Still, Braga's sensuality wasn't the only thing we loved about her Maria — there seemed to be a fire burning in the character's soul and we loved that she was wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted in life, and that she was the first person (man or woman) to get Samantha to be in a healthy, monogamous relationship. Sure the relationship didn't last long, nevertheless we enjoyed seeing Maria on the show, especially towards the end of her run when she got angry with Samantha and started breaking all of her dishes. Escandalo! The lesson? Don't mess with a Maria!

16. Favorite Marias: Related Links