Where did the baby name Marisela come from in 1945?

The character Marisela from the movie "Doña Bárbara" (1943).
Marisela from “Doña Bárbara

The baby name Marisela debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the middle of the 1940s:

  • 1948: 9 baby girls named Marisela
    • 6 born in Texas
  • 1947: 5 baby girls named Marisela
    • 5 born in Texas
  • 1946: unlisted
  • 1945: 12 baby girls named Marisela [debut]
    • 10 born in Texas
  • 1944: unlisted
  • 1943: unlisted

Where did it come from?

A character in the Mexican film Doña Bárbara. Barbara was a ruthless rancher and devoradora — “devourer [of men]” — and Marisela (played by María Elena Marqués) was her long-neglected daughter. Doña Bárbara was released in Mexico in 1943 and started playing in U.S. theaters in 1944 (starting in Los Angeles in April).

The film was based on the famous Venezuelan novel Doña Bárbara (1929) by Rómulo Gallegos. The book was “at once a political tract, a national icon, a precursor to magical realism and a pop culture sensation.”

Its action — the power struggle between a sexy, barbaric woman and a young, idealistic technocrat — mirrors the clash between feudalism and modernity that consumed South America in the early 20th century.

Of course, the “barbaric woman” was Bárbara — you can tell by the name.

(The one American character has a similarly suggestive name: Señor Peligro — “Mister Danger.”)

Gallegos went on to serve as President of Venezuela for nine months in 1948, elected in what is generally considered Venezuela’s first honest election. He was deposed in November, though.

Sources: Doña Bárbara (1943) – IMDb, Dona Barbara – TCM, Rómulo Gallegos – Wikipedia, Oil, Chavez And Telenovelas: The Rise Of The Venezuelan Novel

P.S. The name Irasema was also popularized in the U.S. by Mexican cinema…

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