Macron y la Baker, by Joan de Sagarra

As Óscar Caballero told us last Wednesday in his Paris chronicle, next Tuesday, November 30, Joséphine Baker will enter the Pantheon. She will become the sixth woman to find shelter in the Pantheon of the grands hommes of the French Republic. To begin with, I will tell you that that of the “great men”, and more in these times, sounds like a cheap joke. As much as those six women, in front of the 71 men who rest next to them, it seems, is a ridiculous figure, it seems shameful and very little Parisian that this Pantheon has not yet changed his name and included in it the “great women”. Some women who, incidentally, were slow to arrive. The first to rest in the temple on her own merits was the Polish-French Marie Curie, winner of the Nobel Prize twice, who was chosen, in 1995, by President Mitterrand – it is the president who is responsible for appointing the guests of the Pantheon. , shortly before leaving power and having entered the famous temple five grands hommes : René Cassin, Jean Monnet, Gaspard Monge, Abbe Grégoire and Condorcet.

The rights of women progress, the decriminalization of abortion is imposed, but the Pantheon continues to welcome the grands hommes : André Malraux and Alexandre Dumas at Chirac’s wish, Aimé Césaire at Sarkozy’s whim. With the arrival of François Hollande to Eliseo things changed. Parity and diversity are imposed. Thus, in May 2015, the president chose two women and two men from the resistance: Germaine Tillion, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Pierre Brossolette and Jean Zay. Then, in July 2018, President Emmanuel Macron will open the door of the Pantheon to Simone Veil, the person responsible for the decriminalization of abortion. A total of 71 men (42 of whom appointed by Napoleon himself) against 4 women and Mrs. Sophie Berthelot, pantheonized in 1907, as the “wife of” the scientist and politician Marcellin Berthelot. And now President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to introduce a sixth woman into the Pantheon, and what a woman: Joséphine Baker.

She will become the sixth woman to find shelter in the Pantheon of the ‘grands hommes’ of the French Republic

It is clear that the designation of the Baker, regardless of the devotion that the character of the singer, the star, seems to awaken in the Macron marriage, must be understood in terms of the French presidential elections next year. Come on, it is very clear that the president, advised or not by his own, tries with that woman to win the sympathy of a part of the voters. First of all, it is about a woman, the first black woman – or câpresse , which is how the mestiza is known in the Antilles – to enter the Pantheon. A woman –Freda Joséphine McDonald (the surname Baker is that of one of her husbands) -, with Indian, Spanish and African blood, born in 1906, in Saint-Louis, in Missouri (USA). A woman who at the age of 8 works as a maid for whites and has known hatred and lynchings since she was a child. A woman who will be saved thanks to cakewalk , to the dance that will take her from Saint-Louis to Broadway and from Broadway to Paris where she will triumph. “In New York they called me the Sarah Bernhardt of dance, but in Paris I have risen in category: now I am the black Mistinguett”, Joséphine said to Simenon, one of his many lovers. A woman who in France will discover freedom and affection. And that when the time comes, she will know how to be grateful. “France has made me what I am. You can make whatever you want with me, ”Baker tells Jacques Abtey, the head of military counterintelligence in Paris in 1940. And that woman, black and foreign, becomes a member of the Resistance, of the French espionage free, in a fan of General De Gaulle who rewards her with the Cross of Lorraine (in gold).

That is the card, one of the cards that President Macron plays in the face of next year’s elections. They will not deny me that for a lot of French men and women it is much more grateful to look at each other, to contemplate each other in a pantheonized Baker than in that curious pair of poets – Rimbaud and Verlaine – that some irresponsible proposed to enter the Pantheon. But, apparently, there are those who affirm that despite all the charms that the president, his wife and his advisers may find him, Baker was never critical, denounced French colonialism, nor did he say a word about the war in Algeria. And this for certain French men and women is unforgivable and more so in a “great man” or a “great woman”. By the way, the corpse of Baker will not enter the Pantheon, it will remain buried in Monaco, along with that of her friend Grace Kelly. It will be enough to place a plaque in the temple.

Joséphine Baker during a charity gala in Morocco in 1961


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Macron y la Baker, by Joan de Sagarra