October 28, 2020

The day that José Menese made Rafael Alberti cry | Madrid

The day that José Menese made Rafael Alberti cry | Madrid

José Menese never moved from his place. Always faithful in their sticks and unalterable in their ideals. He was 25 years old and his name already appeared in the Larousse Dictionary, but fame never got him out of the neighborhood of Puerta del Angel, in Madrid, where he had come from Seville, with his wife Encarna Gil, to learn to be a cantaor. He was waiting for him in Argüelles, his other twin soul, Francisco Moreno Galván, author of all the lyrics of a career of five decades and 30 albums. Of all the ones he wrote, Menese wanted one envelope, which he used to sing by heart, which says: "Firm, I stand, firm to the death, / confirm and affirm / that I do not have to change, / that as firm / I I have to hold. / When I die, they will always say: / He died, but he was firm. "

That firmness took him from that working-class neighborhood where they lived for nearly fifty years to sing at the Olympia Theater in Paris, in New York, at the Teatro Real. It was with his firmness of ideals that he paid the quotas of the Communist Party until the last month of his life and the one that led him to meet Blas de Otero, Caballero Bonald and Rafael Alberti. That day Rafael was 70 years old, December 16, 1972 and José sang a mariana in him he left his house: "When will the time / in which the little streams return to their beds / and the corners with their names / neither kings nor roques / neither saints nor friars […] Already the storms have passed / the storms are like lagoons / serene lagoons. / Do not lose your brother the hope / that tomorrow will arrive / that where there was fire / embers remains / and smoke will come out ".

"Lagrimones fell as he sang," José told Encarna, who remembers him on the other side of the phone. They had met a few years before, when the singer payo flew to Rome to bend a bolt, that the character played by the actor Ugo Tognazzi sang to a nun who had fallen in love. There, a collaborator of the film takes Menese to meet Albertí and María Teresa León, at his home on Via Garibaldi, number 88. A reddish building, which was once a convent for "young people gone astray." The friendship that was forged at that moment lasted until the end. That same day, Alberti took him to a family member's wedding and Menese returned with some sugared almonds for Encarna. "They were both romantics," says the musician's widow.

On the second floor live the couple of exiles, after their stay in Argentina, and there they will meet Menese and Alberti, the day he sings the marian bliss that breaks the soul of the poet. On guitar Manolo Brenes. Moreno Galván was also in front, like Albertí's niece, Teresa, who takes the pictures of the moment, which we now publish. "Two planes went out of Madrid for my uncle's birthday," recalls Teresa, who recites the Mariana. "He was very nostalgic and he missed his Spain a lot. Notice that he lifted the floor of the house and found ceramics in Seville and that made him very happy. Then, when he arrived in Spain, he had many problems with the far right. On July 18 we could not leave the house, "he says.

A few days after the meeting, the Puerto de Santa María returns the tears to the cantaor in the form of a poem: "So just suffering / not knowing that one day / a voice that came from afar / would comfort me. I sang / the dark years, / the fatigue of all my dead / between four walls / the blind boot, / the brave blood, / that bull stuck in the veins / that my people have ". It is the same that Teresa will recite this Saturday at the temple of Puerta del Angel that, on the initiative of the Board of La Latina, will bear the name of José Menese.

Encarna remembers that temple with a lot of tenderness. They passed by and missed that there was more music there. "The City Council has promised us that from now on they will schedule more activities there," says José's partner. There "Jose was one more". It was his neighborhood, popular and worker, "lived up to his lyrics and his struggle." "He never thought about wealth," says Encarna. In Puerta del Angel they had their five children, in the neighborhood where they arrive to prosper and they end up surviving. That little temple planted there, in the middle of the margins and of the landscape humanized by the flood of hopes canned in blocks of brick, lightens.

José Menese with the guitar and Rafael Alberti listening at his home in Rome in 1972
José Menese with the guitar and Rafael Alberti listening at his home in Rome in 1972

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