Teresita Fernández (December 20th, 1930 - November 11th, 2013) is one of the characters of the minstrel song, word invented in the Medieval Era. She was born in Santa Clara, province of magnificent musicians.
She had a self-taught formation, even when she recieved the support of a minstrel from Las Villas, called Benito Vargas. In Havana, she made contact with many experienced and outstanding troubadours and with the famous sisters Martí.
I know her from that time in which she used to lived like Robinson Crusoe, without any phone or other form of communication, in her beloved house in the municipality of Cerro. In that visits I used to pay her, among books, trees, little snakes and dogs, she drank beers and smoke her tobacco cigars. And we chatted those long entire afternoons, about the human things and the divine things.
"I was educated as a child listening to great trobadour men and women: María Teresa Vera, Sindo Garay, Manuel Corona, Alberto Villalón".
Her mom, raised in Veracruz, led a music school in Santa Clara, she played the piano in night theaters and led also a choir in the church where she used to sing as a contralto.
"Mom taught me that the essential is working with honesty, no matter the place, but the person's disposition in such a place. Eventhough, those were times of many prejudices towards the artists, seen by many as inmoral people".
"My first steps in music... I sang where people requested my presence, in casual meetings, simple family parties..."
In 1957 is when she comes to Havana, to bet for everything. She used to look for food left over in restaurants and at night, she used to find a space to sleep in the Funeral House Rivero. She dressed in black all the time to pretend being in mourning and not to change her clothes. She was called the Cuban Piaf (la Piaf cubana).
"I was ready to starve to death in order to do what I wanted to do: sing songs in my own way".
The woman troubadour started then to learn how to play the guitar at her 15 years old. She also studied Pedagogy and the arts of teaching by the inspiration of masters such as José Martí and Gabriela Mistral.
I am a teacher who sings, in reality, I am a wondering teacher who loved climbing the mountain, go through the rivers and gather and plant flowers in small pots. I can tell you that I went throughout all Cuba only for a few quantity of pesos, along with Portillo de la Luz and José Antonio Méndez, singing to the men that worked in the sugar cane plantations, in the tobacco factories and militar offices. Never had an audience so wide and varieted. That was after I was sent to plant coffee in the Cordón de La Habana.
In Havana, Teresita recieved the support of the sisters Martí, Luis Carbonell, Esther Borja, Marta Valdés, Bola de Nieve and the support of people from the theater such as Margot de Armas, Luis Brunet, Raquel Revuelta and her brother, Adolfo Llauradó, Miriam Acevedo and José Antonio Rodríguez.
"They taught me to sing in the scene because I was a wondering troubadour, a crazy troubadour, as I say. Mi first performances where in the theater Idal and Arlequín".
Bola de Nieve is the one that takes her to the prestigious restaurant Monseigneur. There, she met personalities such as Josephine Baker and Salvador Allende, who told her once:《You sing like the women from my homeland》and she gave him a CD with her signature on it. Then, Teresita is part of the club El Cóctel, in the center of the Rampa, in the era of the Beatles and the Pop. "El Cóctel was inaugurated with me. There, Silvio Rodríguez visited me and I used to tell him: why don't you sing a song!".
Years later, Silvio confess to me that Teresita inspired him and, with shyness, he went to the stage. 《Then, they had to tell me to stop》
"I invited Silvio -Teresita said- because he sang interesting and weird songs like me. In those casual parties, friends like Adolfo Llauradó, Pineda Barnet, Pablo Armando Fernández, Carlos Ruíz de la Tejera also used to attend".
There is a time in which Teresita, in her casual festival in the Lenin Park , with the help of Lucy Villegas and his team: "There, I gave love to the ugly things of a difficult time. I used to fight against dogmas with my songs of love".
Teresita musicalized El Ismaelillo by José Martí, Las rondas by Gabriela Mistral. "I am fan of Miriam Makeba, Violeta Parra, Horacio Guaraní, Atahualpa Yupanqui, the people that had things in common with me".
This is Teresita Fernández, who with her "Gatico Vinagrito" (Little cat Vinagrito) they resisted the undercover fight for freedom, the bombs over the city of Santa Clara. "Vinagrito" relates that experience.
Translated by Susel Esquivel