Curro Albaicín of Sacromonte, Granada

Earlier this month, I had the honour of spending some time with Curro Albaicín, poet, singer, writer and historian of the gitanos of Sacromonte, Granada. Curro’s cave in Sacromonte is a veritable treasure trove of photographs of the gypsy community of that area that formed the zambra gitana of Granada. The walls of his cave offer a visual history of a community that, until some thirty years ago or so, did not have access to electricity, running water or any of the creature comforts of modern life, but that stubbornly succeeded in forging and shaping the flamenco of Granada. Curro was able to bring each and every photograph to life with stories and anecdotes that revived the many lived moments of so many. Today, more than a few of the gitanos from this area have gone on to become international names — the Habichuela brothers, the Carmona family, the Amayas, the Mayas and the Heredias. Carmen Amaya, generally believed to be from Barcelona, had her family roots here in the Sacromonte , from where they emigrated to Catalonia. Her footwork and the fire of her dancing remain as recognizable legacies of the Sacromonte style of dancing. There are many, many more inborn artists here, gitanos who learn the palos of flamenco in the womb and who take to singing or dancing with natural flair. I was introduced to Curro by Antonio Heredia Heredia, another gitano from the Sacromonte who is also a very fine guitarist. Here we are in Curro’s cave:

Curro, as you can see, is standing on the left with his bastón de patriarca or the patriarch’s walking stick. This is because he is generally considered a leading figure of the gitano community. Curro has rightly earned this eminence. He is the author of Zambras de Granada y flamencos del Sacromonte (2011), a rich history going back to 1940 of the gypsies who lived in caves on the mountains behind the Albaicín in Granada, across the valley from the Alhambra. Zambras de Granada takes us through the lives of so many flamenco artists who each contributed to the development of flamenco in this regions. The book almost takes the form of a family album, with photographs and texts that bring to life the characters that together make up the history of flamenco from Granada.

Curro, I learnt, is, in addition to his many involvements, also committed to keeping alive the memory of the poet from Granada Federico García Lorca. For his efforts to preserve the cultural memory of the gitanos, for his ability to bridge the socio-economic gaps that have for centuries kept gypsies on the margins and for his major contributions to debate, discussion and dissent in flamenco, Curro should be congratulated.

I am very grateful to Antonio Heredia Heredia for introducing me to Curro Albaicín and for sharing his vast knowledge of flamenco and gitano life with me.

Here is Curro Albaicín at the entrance to his cave:

July 20, 2011 Post Under General - Read More

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