Many Latinxs have been embracing their natural curls lately and it’s amazing to witness. Curly hair hasn’t always been accepted in our community due to the European beauty standards that have been pushed on people of color for centuries, which is why it’s so important we own and love our curls. Interestingly enough, when we looked back into Latinx pop culture history, we were able to find a number of iconic and legendary celebs who were rocking their ringlets before it even became socially acceptable.
After doing some extensive research, we managed to find some great examples of Latinx curly hairstyles, spanning 159 years (from 1860 to 2019) and compiled them into the ultimate hair throwback. Here you’ll learn a bit about each person wearing the hairstyle, about the hair trends of the era, and hopefully, walk away with some curly hair appreciation and inspiration of your own — check it out!
1860 Clara P. Flores
This first curly hair photo is from the mid-1860s. It is of Afro-Mexicana Clara P. Flores, who lived in Guanajuato, Mexico. Her hairstyle is representative of what was on trend during the 1860s — pinned back on the sides, with curly bangs and the rest of the hair draping over the shoulders.
1918 Beatriz Michelena
Beatriz Michelena was a Venezuelan-American actress who appeared on the stage and in silent films. This photo from 1918, shows Beatriz sporting soft curls that were popular at the time.
1920s Raquel Torres
Mexicana Raquel Torres and her sister Renee were Hollywood actresses. Raquel appeared in films from 1928 to her retirement in 1935. She is pure Old Hollywood glam in this photo rocking an on-trend hairstyle that features waves that extend into curls.
1928 Dolores del Rio
Mexican star Dolores del Rio is credited with being the first Latinx actress to crossover into Hollywood. Her beauty and style are iconic — including her hair. Unfortunately, her curls were played up the most when it was time for her to portray what Hollywood considered “ethnic” roles (which is not okay), such as that of Spanish Romani, Rascha in the 1928 film Revenge.
1931 Lupita Tovar
Lupita Tovar was another Mexican actress who made a name for herself in Hollywood. This 1931 photo of the star showcases her cascade of gorgeous curls, which were longer than the usual wavy bob trend, but still featured the in-style wavy/curly texture.
1932 Dolores del Rio
Here’s another photo of Dolores del Rio with voluminous, face-framing curls. This hairstyle, from 1932 was created to make her look Polynesian, for the film Bird of Paradise, in which she plays the role of princess Luana. We wish this beautiful look was for a film where she played a Latina and not one where she’s pretending to be a different ethnicity — not okay!
1940s Candita Quintana
Afro-Cubana Candita Quintana was a legend of Cuban theater and a film actress. In this photo, most likely from the 1940s, she lets her curls, accented with flowers, flow down.
1940s Lilia Prado
Lilia Prado, another Latina actress of Old Hollywood, is seen here in a 1940s hairstyle featuring voluminous curls. The Mexicana (who was also a dancer) was a star of Mexican cinema and a sex symbol, starring opposite Cantinflas in the film El analfabeto.
The Chicana pachuca look of the 1940s (a precursor to the chola aesthetic) was partially about borrowing masculine looks from the guys but pairing it with ultra-feminine hair and makeup. This included pompadours and other updos that sometimes featured a bunch of curls, like these hairstyles seen here from the ’40s.
1950s Martina Arroyo
Martina Arroyo is an Afro-Puerto Rican opera singer, who was an international star from the 1960s to the 1980s. In this photo, circa the 1950s, you can see her curls are cropped into a short pixie, which was one of the popular styles of the decade.
1950s Rita Moreno
Puerto Rican superstar Rita Moreno has sported her natural curls for decades, but her hairstyles during the 1950s are especially striking. She wore ringlets in all lengths, from a short, ’50s pixie, to longer, cascading rizos.
1951 Maria Felix
Mexican actress Maria Felix, an icon, and symbol of Latinx beauty and talent had striking dark hair that would dramatically frame her face in billowy curls. The way she styled it here (from a poster for the 1951 film Tragic Spell) was right on trend for the 1940s and ’50s — voluminous waves and rizos, often in a length that sat somewhere from the shoulder to the middle of the back.
1957 Rita Lucia Montero
The next cascade of curls you see here are from Afro-Argentinian actress and singer Rita Lucia Montero. She too is showcasing a popular hairstyle of the 1950s — long, abundant, and feminine waves and curls, styled in a way to evoke glamour.
1969 Gal Costa
It has been said that great minds think alike, but in this case, so do great hairstyles. Brazilian superstars Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa are seen in this vintage 1969 photo, with matching halo-like Afros that seem to meld together harmonically.
1970s Lola Falana
Afro-Cuban singer, dancer, actress, and model Lola Falana is known as the First Lady of Vegas. She let her curls shine during the 1970s, beautifully showing off her ‘fro.
1970s Lynda Carter
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Chicana Lynda Carter is the Latinx face of Wonder Woman. Both on and off the legendary TV show, the actress, singer, songwriter, beauty queen, and model let her curls come out to play, with dazzling results.
1970 Raquel Welch
Bolivian actress and singer Raquel Welch was not messing around when she decided to sport big curls. The volume in her 1970s rizos is the stuff of legends.
1971 Lola Falana
Here is another version of Lola Falana’s legendary ’70s Afros. This particular photo was taken in 1971, before stepping on stage to perform in Italy’s La Bussola nightclub.
1976 Iris Chacon
Although she is way more recognized for her famous behind, Puerto Rican entertainer and bombshell Iris Chacon has also sported her fair share of amazing, gravity-defying curly hairstyles. Like this one — from 1976 — which creates a halo of curls around the star’s face, a look that is back in style when it comes to on-trend curly cuts.
1980s Veronica Castro
Mexican singer, former model, presenter, producer, and actress Veronica Castro is another Latinx whose hair has floated to big heights, especially during the 1980s. That decade, in particular, is great to glean inspiration from if you want to find huge, curly hairstyles, as big hair was in vogue, and curls (whether natural or permed) were all the rage.
1980s Gloria Estefan
Remember when Cubana Gloria Estefan first hit the music scene? Her hair was epic — big, curly, and so full of volume. We loved it!
1989 Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek likes to change up the style of her hair, from pin straight to curly, and loose waves in between. But in the ’80s, like many back then, the Mexican star was sporting her natural curls. We would love to see Salma pump up the volume on her curls like this today!
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Whether it was her permed super curly hair of the ’80s or her ’90s rizos that she would craft into a voluminous half ponytail, Selena Quintanilla-Perez knew curls and how to wear them well.
1990s Mariah Carey
Afro-Venezuelan Mariah Carey also sported her natural curls when she dropped her first albums in the ’90s. While we love all of Mariah’s hairstyles, we would love to see more of her curly looks!
1990s Jennifer Lopez
Curls were released left and right during the ’90s! When she was a Fly Girl on In Living Color and during the beginning stages of her career, the Nuyorican sported dark hair and her natural voluminous curls. We def want to see J.Lo rock her natural hair more in 2019!
A popular chola hairstyle in the ’90s was all about gelling or moussing hair and scrunching them to activate the curl. Then you would hairspray until your strands were crispy and stiff. This photo, taken in 1994, features Veronica and her cousins from San Diego showcasing this exact style.
1996 Celia Cruz
La Reina de la Salsa, Afro-Cubana Celia Cruz had so much fun with her hairstyles. She didn’t shy away from bright colors, outrageous styles, and a more-is-more aesthetic. But she also knew how to rock more chill looks that were equally as striking, including Afros, braids, brown and black hair, and of course, big ’80s curls.
2013 Christina Aguilera
Ecuatoriana Christina Aguilera loves to change up her hairstyle, but will always come back to a good, big, dramatic curly moment. Just like she did here in 2013 while taping the fifth season of The Voice. The hair appears to be an homage to the disco glam of the 1970s, which is perfect for the larger than life chanteuse.
2019 Amara La Negra
Our last curly hair look takes us right up to 2019, although the inspiration is totally 1970s. Afro-Dominican singer, actress, and Love & Hip Hop: Miami reality star, has schooled a few folks — including her producer — on her hair and what it means to be Afro-Latina. She is proud of her afro, her roots, and has become an activist for the Afro-Latinx community where she advocates for representative and equality.