News »

Cuban loves of Agustín Lara

agustin_laraBy: Ciro Bianchi Ross

The year is 1932 and Agustín Lara begins a frantic race towards fame. He makes his first international tour on that date. In Paris he snatches the French and one of his compositions, Farolito, becomes a fashionable tune there.

It is around that time that he makes his first trip to the Cuban capital, in the company of Pedro Vargas and Ana María Fernández. He returns in May 1939 and then makes a profession of love for Cuba. He declares: “I was returning from France… Havana opened its arms to me… and I was not ungrateful, there are that Sueño guajiro and those Coplas that were born in the immense Yumurí prairie”. He is here again in 1952. At La Bodeguita del Medio he meets Sindo Garay and at the Montmartre cabaret he plays the piano and leads a violin orchestra. He performs outdoors at the Saratoga hotel. Researcher Radamés Giro affirms: “His interest in Cuban music is reflected in La cumbancha -tribute to Cuban percussion recorded by the Trio Matamoros, Antonio Machín and the Caney quartet-, Noche criolla and the danzonete Pobre de mi”.

a rising star
It is in the visit of 1939 when he is struck by a girl who had revealed herself as the Rising Star of the CMQ-Radio Circuit, and who at that time was doing a little of everything at said station: she sang, declaimed, took turns speaking. She is called Xiomara Fernández; she is 21 years old and is as beautiful as she is shy. Gaspar Pumarejo, who would be the pioneer of television in Cuba, presents them. They haven’t exchanged more than a few words when Lara expresses her desire to write a song for her to release. Xiomara doesn’t know what to answer, she is speechless. She feels small before a composer like the one she has in front of her, but, finally, with many doubts, she agrees. Lara writes for her When you looked at me, which Xiomara premieres at the Gran Teatro de La Habana –today, Alicia Alonso- accompanied on the piano by the composer himself. He will sing it later in Matanzas and in Pinar del Rio.

“All the glory was mine / when you looked at me, / all the glory was mine / when you looked at me, / the day was without light, / everything was without light / and my life began / when you looked at me… ”.

Xiomara Fernández would remember many years later that she was always fascinated by Agustín; he was very fine and delicate, she said. Every day she sent a bouquet of flowers to the CMQ. She was afraid that such kindness would draw her attention and she would arouse suspicion among her classmates and she let him know. He then began to send you a single flower every day with a card that read “Thinking of you”.

They met several times in one of the bars of the Sevilla hotel. Lara told her about taking her to Mexico for work plans, and she specified that she could go in the company of a relative. Xiomara was not interested in the trip. Lara then went deep and proposed to her. She rejected it.

She continued Xiomara an ascending career and did not take long to start a courtship with José Antonio Alonso, the disputed host of the Supreme Court, the man of a thousand brides, as the press of the time called him. The wedding was quite an event. They got married on December 1, 1940, in the Great Theater of Havana, with the room full of radio listeners and people from the show business. Hundreds of admirers waited outside to see and acclaim the couple, including a pilot who landed his plane on the Paseo del Prado, in front of the theater building, to release pigeons and deliver a bouquet of flowers to the bride.

Lara’s music remains in the repertoire of Cuban singers of all times, inside and outside the Island.

The album Only once from Cuba to Lara collects the interpretations of great voices that sing it Cuban style. Pablo Milanés performs Noche de ronda, and Omara Portuondo, Only once, while the Aragón orchestra performs Lamento jorocho, and Francisco Céspedes vocalizes Travel Gift, at the express request of one of the composer’s ex-wives. Also on the plate are Van Van, Miriam Ramos, Kelvis Ochoa, Carlos Varela, Santiago Feliú and David Torrens, among others.

“Lara has been part of his lives, some grew up with him and everyone has adopted him as if he were Cuban,” said the Mexican producer of that album.

At the time, the interpretations made separately by Arráncame la vida, Orlando Contreras and Abelardo Barroso, who sang better as he got older, were highly celebrated. Memorable are those of Pecado, by Blanca Rosa Gil and the one made by Barbarito Diez de Palmeras. They like El organillero, by the Aragón orchestra, Rival, by the América orchestra, and Amor de mis amores, by Elena Burke. The interpretation that Roberto Sánchez and the Gloria Matancera orchestra made of Santa, the melody that Lara preferred among the more than 700 that she created, is kept alive in the memory.

He said of himself: “I’m ridiculously cheesy, and I love it. Because mine is a sincerity that others shy away from… ridiculously.”

Agustín Lara Aguirre y Pino, “El Flaco de Oro”, has his monument on Avenida del Puerto, on the shore of Havana Bay. A bronze statue, the work of the Yucatecan sculptor Humberto Peraza, which evokes the presence of the composer among us. The image highlights the extreme thinness of the artist who wears a jacket and tie. His left hand rests on his right arm while his right hand is raised to his face to hint at the presence of a cigarette that he will bring to his lips.

And it is that the author of the operetta The Golden Bird and of so much music for the cinema, incessant smoker in life, now smokes in eternity.

Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. The mandatory fields are marked. *