Songwriter Agustin Lara captured the soul of the Mexican people. During his career, which lasted over seventy years, he wrote hundreds of songs. Lara was one of Mexico’s most prolific and dearly loved musicians but also gained an international reputation.
His admirers affectionately referred to him as “Flaco de Oro”, which loosely translates into “skinny guy made of gold”. Lara, an unattractive and scar-faced man, had women swooning at his feet, and national leaders offering him accolades only reserved for “living national treasures”. He became most famous for his compositions of “Granada” and “Veracruz”. The latter becoming the second national anthem of that beautiful port city.
Lara and I had one thing in common; we both fell in love with Tlacotalpan though he took it a little further in declaring this town the home of his birth. It was here he and I (so I think) met María Antonia Peregrino de Chazaro, better known as Toña la Negra, who was to become one of the major interpreters of his music.
“…When visiting Tlacotalpan, I attended a festival in his name and ran into his ex-wife. I’m not sure which one (there were four) but believe is was Toña. Before entering the theatre, she and I talked a while, and we exchanged information under the statue of her former spouse. She wanted me to sing Lara’s songs, and I regret I didn’t follow up on that invitation. At the time I was unaware of the man’s magnitude. Much later I discovered yet another song of Lara a friend thought I should know about. For the longest time the only words I remembered were: I was born with a pirate’s soul, under the silvery moon …” (from “Turning Left at the Third Cactus” by Christel Veraart).
Yo nací con la luna de plata
nací con alma de pirata,
he nacido rumbero y jarocho
trovador de veras,
y me fui lejos de veracruz.
donde hacen su nido
las olas del mar
de patria que sabe sufrir y cantar
Veracruz, son tus noches
diluvio de estrellas, plamera y mujer.
Veracruz, vibra en mi ser,
algún día hasta tus playas lejanas
tendré que volver…
I was born under the silvery moon
Born with a pirate’s soul
I was born a party-goer and Veracruzano
a real troubadour
and I went far away from Veracruz
Veracruz, little corner
where the waves of the ocean
make their nest
Veracruz, little corner
of the fatherland that knows to suffer and sing
Veracruz, it’s your nights
full of stars, palm-trees and women
Veracruz, vibrant in my being
one day I should return
to your forlorn beaches
I should return
Fascinating to learn about such an interesting and prolific influence in Mexican music.