It’s post-election Monday and I turn on the computer to interview a couple of analysts about the results of the vote. The conversation takes place in the midst of an inevitable discouragement, not because of the specific victory of one character or another, but because of the feeling of general rot, of stable ruin, of citizen indifference before the already normalized spectacle of seeing how the country rolls downhill .
I thank both guests for their opinions and move on to the next one. It is the great Susana Baca. Susana Esther Baca from the Hill. Just serve, her smile lights up the screen, goes through it, her energy reaches the other side. A similar effect is achieved with the softness of her voice, the rhythmic way in which she groups the words, the serenity of each one of her gestures. So, while I listen to her talk about her fourth Latin Grammy nomination, about the recently published first volume of her memoirs, Yo vengo to offer my heart (Plaza & Janés), and about the concert that she will give today, Saturday, at the Gran Teatro Nacional , I manage to mentally evade myself for a few seconds to understand the magnitude of the character in front of me.
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I think of the woman behind the name, the girl who grew up in the narrowness of an alley in Lince; the daughter of the brave Doña Carmen, who cooked delicacies for large families and who, when dancing, concentrated the eyes of her entire neighborhood; Ernesto’s daughter, Don Baquita, the Nicolini’s driver, a stubborn reveler, the most skillful with the guitar and the cajon, who left home when Susana hadn’t turned five.
I think of the girl who, despite suffering harsh episodes of discrimination at school for being black –so much so that Doña Carmen had to change schools–, never reacted with hatred towards her aggressors or towards anyone who held the privileges of those she lacked. I think of the skinny, wizened, asthmatic little girl who missed her father day and night, and also her mother, who for a while spent a lot of time helping a Japanese family who took refuge in a little house in Chorrillos, escaping from a string of of fanatics who didn’t realize the war was long over.
I think of the young woman who studied to be a teacher in La Cantuta, where she began treating poets and writers. And in the teacher, who crossed the mountain range to teach in the heights of Tarma. And in the artist who, hand in hand with Chabuca Granda, her “musical mother”, she was gestating with a lot of effort the place that she deservedly occupies today.
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And while he tells me how, as a result of ‘the audios of shame’ of 2018, or rather as a result of the outrage that those audios aroused, he sat down to think about the themes of his latest album, Urgent Words, for which has been nominated, I think that is precisely what this country needs, which has made continuous shouting its way of remaining silent: words. Words like Susana’s. Simple words to calm down, but also clear words to keep your guard up against hate speech. “We need to listen and understand each other, understand that we are part of a single community; the community saves you, the community is supportive, you are never alone if you are in community”, says the singer-songwriter, and listening to her one thinks that, despite the fact that thousands prefer to continue animalizing the adversary (“Peru’s problem is that it confuses the adversary with the enemy”, said Carmen Mc Evoy), and talking about donkeys versus pigs, and wallowing in discursive violence, even in physics, despite that, there are still millions of Peruvians willing to turn rubble into bricks left by so many simultaneous crises.
“I think that only art has given me the necessary impulse to create a bridge between my life and that of others,” Susana writes in her memoirs, revealing the recipe for her spiritual tranquility. At 78 years old, she continues to sing like she was 20, demonstrating that consecration and humility can go hand in hand with her, and teaching this hopeless country that no, all is not lost. //
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Who said everything is lost