Google is honoring Pedro Infante’s 100th birthday with a Google Doodle today, November 17. Infante was born in 1917 and died in 1957. He did not live a long life, but he lived a full life that left behind a major impact that is still felt today. He was a beloved Mexican actor and singer who is often compared to Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley. His nicknames, including “El Inmortal,” “El Rey de Rancheras,” and “El idolo de Guamuchil,” represent his style, charm, and musical skill. He was known as one of the “Tres Gallos Mexicanos” — Three Mexican Roosters — because of his amazing role in cinema. Google writes in its biography about Infante: “Infante’s passions went beyond stage and screen, though they often appeared intertwined.” He was also an avid boxer and he could do amazing acrobats on a motorcycle. You can also learn more about Infante in Google’s new online exhibit about him.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Pedro Infante Was Known as One of the Greatest Actors in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema
Infante’s contribution to cinema cannot be overstated. Over the course of 14 years, he acted in nearly 60 films and recorded 366 songs. After his death, he was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actor in the 7th Berlin International Film Festival for his last film: Tizoc.
His first leading role in the film La Feria de Las Flores in 1943. Other notable films and roles in included:
- A trilogy of films starring his character “Pepe el Toro,” an icon of working neighborhoods and the new urban working class
- Ahi Viene Martin Corona and Los Hijos de Maria Morales
- He starred in multiple movies with Sara Garcia, who often played the role of his loving, plain spoken grandmother
- Sobre las Olas, a movie about Juventino Rosas, a Mexican waltz composer
- La Vida No Vale Nada was a movie that won him the Ariel Award for Best Actor
- Los Tres Huastecos was a movie where the child star Maria Eugenia Llamas made her debut as La Tucita, alongside Infante. They also starred in Dicen que Soy un Mujeriego together.
2. He Was One of 15 Children and He Had at Least Five Children of His Own
Infante was born in 1917 in a small fishing town of Mazatlan. He learned music from his father and began working as an apprentice to a carpenter. He started out in his father’s band, La Rabia, as a teen.
He was the third of 15 children born to Delfino Infante Garcia and Maria Del Refugio Cruz Aranda. Only nine of their 15 children survived. He was particularly close to his brother Angel Infante, who appeared in 30 films with him. His brother Jose Infante was also an actor and singer.
Infante’s father, Delfino, was also a musician but had trouble making ends meet. In fact, Infante dropped out of school in fourth grade to help the family by taking on jobs like selling hardware, running errands, waiting tables, and working as a carpenter.
He eventually married Maria Luisa Leon, who was about 10 years older than him. Maria convinced him to move to Mexico City to find more opportunities for his talent. While he and Maria were married, he met dancer Lupita Torrentera Bablot and they had three children: Graciela Margarita, Pedro Infante Jr., and Guadalupe Infante Torrentera.
Sadly, Pedro Infante Jr. committed suicide in 2009. His family originally said he died of pneumonia. But instead, People reported that he died of 12 self-inflicted stab wounds. He died at the age of 59 in Los Angeles. He was an actor with more than 87 credits to his name.
Infante had a fourth child, Irma Infante, with actress Irma Dorantes. Irma Infante became famous in her own rite, as both an actress and a singer. You can see a video of Irma below:
Infante also had a fifth child, Guadalupe Infante Lopez. She was actually Infante’s first daughter, born with his childhood sweetheart Guadalupe Lopez. However, the public did not learn about his first daughter until after his tragic death.
Although Wikipedia only lists five children of Infante, other sources say that Infante and his wife, Maria, adopted Dora Luisa Infante, the daughter of his sister, Maria del Carmen Infante. He may have had other children, but their identities were not authenticated.
3. He Died Tragically While Piloting a Plane in 1957, And Rumors Surfaced in the 1980s that His Death Was Faked
Infante was not content to just be a supremely talented singer and actor. He loved aviation. When he died, he was piloting a Consolidated Aircraft X B-24-D that had been converted from a heavy bomber war plane, according to his biographer. The plane took off from Merida, Yucatan and crashed just five minutes later on April 15, 1957. With him on the plane were Marciano Bautista (a mechanic) and Manuel Vidal, his copilot. Two people on the ground also died in the crash.
The cause of the crash was not determined for certain. Speculation included that one of the engines failed or there was too much weight on the plane.
This was not his first plane crash. In 1949, while flying from Acapulco to Mexico City with Lupita, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed while trying to land. Infante suffered severe wounds, but helped an unconscious Lupita out of the wreck and walked two kilometers for help, according to a book written about Infante called “Pedro Infante. The Immortal Idol.”
His death was first announced after a firefighter found his bracelet, engraved with his name. Pedro’s body had been burned beyond recognition in the crash.
In the 1980s, fans began to speculate that his death was faked because a man named Antonio Pedro resembled him. Pedro was a “vagabond” who lived on the streets, with a slight physical similarity and a voice that sounded vaguely like Infante’s. Pedro claimed to have “vague memories” of being Infante.
4. He Was Also a Talented Singer and Boxer — a True Renaissance Man
Infante wasn’t just regarded as a cinema giant, he also changed music forever. As Google wrote in the bio about him: “Mixing feeling with technique, his soulful croon forever changed the way the mariachi was sung and he helped popularize the genre around the world.” Infante’s first musical recording was made on November 19, 1943, “El Soldado Raso,” for Peerless Records Company. He was one of the most popular singers of mariachi and ranchera music. Out of all his songs, he only recorded one melody in English: Besame Mucho. He was also known for his “mariachi shout.”
Part of the appeal of Infante’s voice was that it was unrefined and filled with emotion. His songs tugged at people’s emotions, sharing the heartaches of lost loves, broken friendships, and family.
In addition to acting and singing, he had many other talents. He was a boxer, which he portrayed in the 1953 film Pepe El Toro. He was a talented motorcyclist, which he portrayed in the film A Toda Maquina. In that film, he portrayed a motorcycle cop and performed “acrobacias,” which are two-wheeled pirouettes that are still performed in parades and events today.
5. He’s Still Loved and Mourned to This Day
Even to this day, Pedro Infante is still loved and mourned. His shrine in Mexico City attracts numerous fans every year. In fact, people still dress up as his characters. Every year, fans hold a mass with honor guards and music in his honor. His fame only grew greater after he died.
Four statues honor him. One in Mexico City made out of bronze keys donated by fans; one in Merida; one in his birthplace of Mazatlan; and one in the town square of Guamuchil.