Marquita Rivera – The First Puerto Rican Who Appeared in a Hollywood Film

Born on May 18, 1922 in the city of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Marquita Rivera was a famous actress, dancer, and singer and the first ever Puerto Rican who appeared in a major Hollywood film “Road to Rio.”

Born as Maria Heroina Rivera de Santiago, Rivera was the youngest child among the brood of 12. At the age of three months, her family migrated to New York City in the United States where her musical career started. At a very young age of six, Rivera studied flamenco and dance under the famous dance teacher and master Eduardo Cansino.

Rivera’s talent in music was noticed during her teenage years. Her first featured role was through the movie “George White’s Scandals of 1936” where she played the role of a dancer. For Rivera, she believed that the highlight of her career was when she performed before King George VI and his daughter Queen Elizabeth II during the New York World’s Fair in 1939. In addition, Rivera also toured different cities around the United States such as Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago with the band led by Noro Morales and Paul Whiteman.

Rivera established her name on the club circuit when she started putting her own show at Havana-Madrid and Latin Quarter in the state of New York. In Puerto Rico, Rivera also gained popularity performing in El San Juan Theatre and Zero’s Nightclub. She also landed an acting contract in Mexico with Azteca Studios where she acted in various films such as “El Conquistador” and “Me perigue una mujer.”

After her contract with Azteca Studios, Rivera landed a Hollywood contract making her the first Puerto Rican actress and dancer to do so. In 1947, she starred in the film “The Road to Rio” together with Hollywood actors Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope.