Tuesday, February 22, 2011
TUNES FOR TUESDAY --Beloved Alicia
My series of 5 Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize turned out to be heavily slanted towards Salsa Music. For this reason, I decided to continue by adding to the list songs from other genres which I think also speak to the Colombian common memory.
As with many others, today's song is a love story. Alas, a tragic one. It is based on a true experience from the life of Juan Manuel Polo Cervantes, born September 18, 1918, in Concordia, Magdalena, Colombia. Juan Manuel became a great poet and musician. To honor him, his friends changed his name to Juancho Polo Valencia. Juancho Polo being a cool way to say his name, and Valencia because that was the last name of the best poet in Colombia at the time (most likely Guillermo León Valencia, 1873-1943).
The story goes that Juancho Polo eventually married his sweetheart Alicia Cantillo. She quickly became pregnant with their first child, but possibly developed pre-eclampsia. She was swollen, she bruised and bled easily, and was very ill. Faithful to his work, Juancho left her in their meager home in the town of Flores de Maria and traveled for several days to make a living playing music at people's parties. When he returned, his wife had been buried for three days. Juancho grabbed his accordion and while crying next to her grave wrote and sang this song:
Alicia Adorada by Juancho Polo Valencia.
This is a standard vallenato. As such, it has been played by almost every vallenato artist out there. The younger generation will recognize this song as interpreted by Carlos Vives in his album Classicos de la Provincia.
In 1968, during the Vallenato Festival in Valledupar, another well known Colombian artist, Alejandro (Alejo) Durán, sang this song and was crowned the Vallenato King that Year. Here is his version.
Juancho Polo Valencia died in 1978. The night before his death, he had been playing in the Magical Town of Aracataca. The place where Gabriel García Marquez was born, and which in his book 100 Years of Solitude is called Macondo. He died as any character in the book: after returning from Macondo, he laid down in his hammock. There, his grandson found him peacefully dead the next morning.
Here's a short documentary about the song from the Costeño TV channel.