The Last Interview with Benny Moré (34th Anniversary of his death)
La última entrevista del Benny Moré (Aniversario 34 de su fallecimiento)

 

Benny Moré - The Last Interview - La última entrevista

By/Por:  Rafael Lam
Translation by/Traducción por: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Benny Moré was born in Santa Isabel de las Lajas on August 24, 1919 and passed away on February 19, 1963. During his musical lifetime there were not many published interviews in the Cuban press, a result of the indolence of the times. The last interview he granted to the now defunct Santiago Cardosa Arias from the magazine called Revolución. Cardosa Arias went on to become a reporter with Granma International.

La última entrevista se publicó con vistas a la celebración del último Festival Papel y Tinta del periódico Revolución, en el área del frente del Capitolio. "Aquel 3 de enero andábamos todos en el ajetreo de organizar el Festival" – me contaba Santiago. "Todos, incluyendo a Benny, que hizo siempre de nuestra fiesta de aniversario la fiesta suya, esperábamos ansiosamente la fecha. Y aquella tarde en su hogar del reparto la Cumbre (El Caballo Blanco), nos recibió el artista lajero. Nos invitó a pasar al patio, al fondo observamos la cría de animales que atendía con celo y a los cuales les ponía nombres de artistas famosos: Celeste Mendoza, Juana Bacallao."

"Esos bichos están alimentados con lo que le traigo en el 'pupú' (señalando para su Cadillac azul)." Recuerdo que me dijo: "Pon ahí que Obras Públicas prepare los hierros; le vamos a dejar cantidad de baches en el Parque Central, donde vamos a tocar".

El cantor vivía en su chocita de una manera muy natural, quiso reproducir allí su vida de niño cuando sembraba viandas en el patio de su casa. Gustaba de hacer comidas muy típicas: rabo encendido, con mucho picante. Cerdo asado en púa –invento africano-. Algunas veces le traían del campo jutía, que asaba con trocitos de caña. Tenía especial predilección por la el arroz frito (invento cubano de chinos venidos de Cantón).

No era amante de la cerveza, sino del ron Peralta. Tomaba mucho café y fumaba. En la casa andaba sin camisas y se acostaba en el suelo, desde donde dictaba algunos arreglos musicales. Esa es una costumbre guajira, buscando el frescor del piso en tiempos de calor.

Poco a poco comenzaron a llegar algunos de los músicos de la "Tribu", la Banda Gigante. El delegado Castellanos le hablaba de otro contrato fantasma. "¿Dónde está el contrato? Yo no firmé nada. Esta es la 'bolá', mi socio, se ponen a decir que el Benny irá, y yo soy el último en enterarme. Después viene la 'moña', dicen que uno es informal y no cumple. No, no va mi socio. Yo no engaño a mi público, esa es mi gente".

Cardoso observó cómo Benny dejaba pasar por alto un homenaje a su figura, el cantor tenía un compromiso con la casita de su mamá en Santa Isabel de las Lajas. "El lunes me voy para Lajas; a ver como anda la casita. Tengo que llevar unos ladrillos que le faltan". Desde niño, el Benny había prometido a su mamá regalarle una casa cuando fuera un artista famoso, la mamá nunca lo creyó, pensaba que eran cosas de muchacho.

Al despedirse los periodistas de Revolución, el Benny volvió a pronosticarles el éxito del Festival en el Capitolio. "No hay cráneo mis hermanos, esto está querido".

Después en el auto los periodistas comentaban la sencillez en que vivía el artista más famoso de Cuba. "Ha ganado miles de miles y siempre está haciendo favores, ayudando a los pobres", decía la delegación de Revolución. "Esa fue la imagen que nos llevamos del Bárbaro", termina diciendo Santiago Cardoso. "Nunca pensé que sería la última entrevista impresa que se haría al Benny Moré".

Al Benny le quedaba solamente 40 días de vida, su organismo atravesaba una dolencia hepática que le obligaba inyectarse constantemente, ya no le cabían inyecciones en las nalgas. Solamente contaba con 43 años, la mejor etapa de un hombre con fuerza y cierta experiencia. Algunos como el musicólogo Leo Brouwer consideran que el cantor se marchitó físicamente, se fue deteriorando, pero su voz se mantuvo con mucha fuerza.

Su última presentación fue el 17 de febrero de 1963 en el pueblo de Palmira, a unos kilómetros de su pueblo natal Santa Isabel de las Lajas. En esa presentación, llena de leyendas, se cuenta que tuvo la ruptura de una várice encefálica como consecuencia de su cirrosis hepática, que estuvo desafiando durante muchos años. Se estima que este padecimiento lo arrastraba desde antes de partir hacia México en 1945. En esas condiciones, después de vomitar abundantemente mucha sangre, subió al escenario para actuar como nunca, como en una despedida, sabiendo el cantor que ya no le quedaba mucho tiempo de vida. Fue como su último adiós a su público, al que le entregó todo.

El Doctor Luis Ruiz narraba que en su última actuación Benny llegó hasta Santa Isabel de las Lajas, para encontrarse con su mamá y sus familiares y conocer del desarrollo de la construcción de la casa que estaba atendiendo personalmente. "En su ida a Lajas" –comenta el Doctor a Amín E. Naser- "tuvo un vómito de sangre. Llega a Lajas. Se pasó el sábado 16 desde el mediodía hasta el atardecer acostado y vuelve a tener deposiciones de sangre. A pesar de sentirse muy mal, su fuerte organismo le posibilita llegar hasta Palmira. Allí actuó espléndidamente. Yo llego en el intermedio de la última tanda y el delegado Israel Castellanos (Muela) me dice que Benny se siente muy mal. Me dice que se encontraba acostado en el automóvil, fui a verlo y me dice que se siente muy decaído que no se sentía bien. Pero transcurre un breve tiempo y acude nuevamente al escenario. Canta las canciones Dolor y perdón, Maracaibo y Qué bueno baila usted. A mi juicio las interpretaciones fueron magistrales."

"Considero que el Benny, desde el primer momento en que vomita sangre debió regresar urgente a algún hospital cercano en Cienfuegos, al menos pudo tener atención médica urgente con tranfusiones de sangre. A todas luces se observa que tardaron demasiado para atenderlo en un hospital con todas las posibilidades. Se desgastó mucho en su última actuación; pero, quiso quedar bien con su público fiel. Murió dándolo todo. Pocos casos se conocen de un artista que entregue tanto por su pueblo."

De Palmira regresó urgentemente a La Habana, Benny no quería ingresar en ningún hospital, quería estar en su casa con sus hijos y allí esperar la muerte. El domingo 17 mejoró algo, al amanecer el lunes 19 vuelve a ponerse mal, su médico decide ingresarlo. Benny le dice a su médico: "Mi hermano, me cogió la rueda". Lo montaron en una ambulancia con vistas a ingresar, en el Instituto Nacional de Cirugía (Hospital Emergencia), en la calle de Carlos III, casi esquina a Infanta.

Llegó en estado comatoso al hospital, aparecieron complicaciones pulmonares y renales. Su respiración se hace difícil y su presión arterial con tendencia a caer. Mantiene fiebre de 39 y no aparecen defensas orgánicas a los tratamientos implantados. Su estado era muy grave.
En esos días se celebraba en La Habana el I Congreso Médico Internacional, al propagarse la noticia de gravedad del cantor, se personó el doctor Machado Ventura quien participó con otros galenos nacionales y extranjeros en una junta médica.

El martes 19 de febrero fallece a las 9 y 15 de la noche, el rey de la música cubana. La noticia estremeció el mundo musical hasta sus cimentos. El cantante de la orquesta Aragón, Pepe Olmo, dijo que había terminado una era musical, "Después vino otra cosa, pero esta era finalizó con Benny Moré".

Casi siempre sucede así, las épocas musicales terminan cuando fallece el rey, recordemos la salsa latina con la desaparición de Tito Puente y algunos otros reyes y reinas. No olvidemos el final del gran momento del tango con el accidente de Carlos Gardel en Medellín en 1935. Figuras que llevan el estandarte de una rica etapa de todo un pueblo o de toda una época.

Benny Moré falleció en su mejor momento, como Carlos Gardel, por eso ellos cantan cada día mejor.

Benny Moré nació en Santa Isabel de las Lajas el 24 de agosto de 1919 y falleció el 19 de febrero de 1963. En sus años de vida musical existen muy pocas entrevistas publicadas en la prensa cubana, indolencia de la época. La última entrevista la realizó el fallecido Santiago Cardosa Arias del periódico Revolución –después reportero de Granma Internacional-.

The last interview was published on the ocasion of the celebration of the last Paper and Ink Festival sponsored by Revolución magazine, in the area in front of the Capital building. "That January third we were all busy with organizing the festival", Santiago told me. "Everyone, including Benny, who always made our festival his own, was anxiously awaiting the date. And that afternoon at his home near la Cumbre (El Caballo Blanco), the artist from Laja received us. He invited us to enter his patio where we could see the animals he kept there, each one of which had a name of a famous artist: Celeste Mendoza, Juana Bacallao."

"These animals are fed on what I bring them in the 'pupú' (as he motioned toward his blue Cadillac)." I remember he told me: "Write down that Public Works should get ready; we are going to leave them lots of pot holes in the Central Park where we will be playing."

The singer lived in his small hut in a very natural way. He wanted to reproduce his childhood when he planted vegetables in the patio of his house. He liked to make typical dishes: rabo encendido (tail on fire), with lots of hot sauce. Roasted pork with púa - an African invention. Sometimes he would bring a wild pig from the countryside and roast it with pieces of sugar cane. He had a special predilection for fried rice (invented in Cuba by the Chinese who came from Canton).

He didn't care for beer, but rather preferred Peralta rum. He drank lots of coffee and smoked. At home he walked around without a shirt and would lay down on the floor where he would dictate some musical arrangements. This was a 'guajira' custom, staying cool on the floor during times of great heat.

Little by little the musicians from the "tribe" - the Banda Gigante or Big Band - began to arrive. Representative Castellanos spoke to him about another ghost contract. "What contract? I didn't sign anything. This is just made up. They start saying that Benny will go, and I'm the last to know about it. After that they start the rumors that one is informal and doesn't fulfill his promises. I would never fool my public, those are my people."

Cardoso saw how Benny let the opportunity for a tribute to him go by. The singer had a previous commitment with his mother's house in Santa Isabel de las Lajas. "Monday I'm going to Lajas to see how the house is coming along. I have to take a few bricks as they are short." Ever since he was a child Benny had promised his mother that he would give her a house when he was a famous artist. She never believed him; she thought it was just something a child would say.

When Benny said goodbye to the journalists from the Revolución magazine, he reminded them of the success the Festival at the capital was going to have. "Don't even think about it, my brothers. This is going to be great!"

Later in the car the journalists commented how down to earth the most famous artist of Cuba was. "He has earned thousands and thousands and he is always doing favors, helping the poor" said the delegation from the Revolución magazine. "This was the impression we had after meeting 'El Bárbaro'" said Santiago Cardoso. "I never thought it would be the last printed interview that Benny Moré would grant."

Benny had only another 40 days to live. His body was riddled with the effects of a liver disease which forced him to constantly inject himself. He could no longer tolerate injections in his hips. He was only 43 years old, the best part of life for a man who was strong and had experience. Some, like the musicologist Leo Brouwer felt that the singer withered away physically, that he deteriorated, but his voice was always strong.

His last show was on February 17th, 1963 in the town of Palmira, a few kilometers from his native town of Santa Isabel de las Lajas. At that show, full of legends, it is said that he had ruptured a vein in his brain as a consequence of the cirrohsis of the liver, which he had been fighting for many years. It is believed that he had been dealing with that since before leaving for Mexico in 1945. In this condition, after vomiting a lot of blood, he got back up on stage and acted as if never before, as a farewell, as if he knew he didn't have much time left. It was like his last goodbye to his public, and he gave it his all.

Dr. Luis Ruiz tells us that after his last show Benny made it to Santa Isabel de las Lajas to be with his mother and his family and to check on the construction progress of the house, which he was personally overseeing. "In his trip to Lajas," said Dr. Amín E. Naser, "he vomited blood. He arrived in Lajas and spent Saturday the 16th from noon until dusk laying down and with more blood. In spite of not feeling well his strength allowed him to get up and go to Palmira. He put on a splendid show there. I arrived during the intermission of the last set and Israel Castellanos (Muela) told me that Benny felt really bad. He told me he was lying down in the car. I went to see him and he told me that he felt very weak, and that he did not feel well. But after a short while he got back up on stage. He sang Dolor y perdón, Maracaibo, and Qué bueno baila usted. In my opinion, the interpretation of these songs was majestic."

"I feel that Benny, since the first moment in which he vomited blood should have been taken immediately to some nearby hospital in Cienfuegos, so that at least he could have had emergency attention with blood transfusions. Even under scrutiny it is obvious that they took too long to take him to a hospital where he could get the care he needed. He spent a lot of energy in his last show, but he wanted to fulfil his audience's expectations. He died giving them his all. It isn't often you hear of an artist that gives his all for his people."

From Palmira he returned urgently to Havana. Benny didn't want to go into any hospital. He wanted to be at home with his children and wait for death there. On Sunday the 17th he got a little better, but at dawn on Monday the 19th he worsened again and his doctor decided to hospitalize him. Benny told his doctor, "Brother, I got caught up by the wheel." They put him in an ambulance to take him to the National Surgery Institute (Emergency Hospital), on Carlos III street, near the corner of Infanta.

He arrived in a comatose state, and pulmonary complications followed by renal problems. He had difficulty breathing and his blood pressure was falling. He had a 39 degree fever and his organs were not responding to treatment. He was in a very grave state. At around that time they were celebrating in Havana the First International Medical Congress. Upon hearing the news of the singer's state, Dr. Machado Ventura participated in a medical review together with other renowned national and international personnel.

On Tuesday February 19th, at 9:15 p.m., the King of Cuban music died. The news shook the musical world all the way to its foundations. The singer from the Orquesta Aragón, Pepe Olmo, said that a musical era had ended. "Afterward another time came, but that was the end of that era with the death of Benny Moré."

It is almost always that way. Musical epochs end when the king dies. We can recall the end of Salsa when Tito Puente and other kings and queens passed away. We will never forget the end of the great Tango movement with the accident of Carlos Gardel in Medellín in 1935 - figures who carried the banner of a period of time for an entire people.

Benny Moré died at the best moment, like Carlos Gardel, and that is why each day they sing better.

 

 

 

Esta página fue actualizada / this page was updated on 07-Jun-2013