Two words, two languages and two spellings. An art form and a bird. It cannot be helped that many English speakers get it wrong when trying to pronounce a Spanish word, especially if said word refers to or describes something that does not even exists in Anglo-Saxon culture.
“Flamingo” and “Flamenco” seem to get confused with each other and both seem to imply the same thing.
In Spanish, “flamenco” is mainly associated to two things: a bird and an artistic manifestation of culture. In Spanish the word “flamingo” does not exist. In English, however, the word “flamingo” is used to refer to the bird. Despite the fact that the word “flamenco” exists to refer to the art form, it is often incorrectly substituted with the word “flamingo,” probably due to an issue with pronunciation. There are, however, many English speakers who do use the word “flamenco” correctly.
Language is alive
Words are born, they change, they are used, forgotten and they disappear. And although official linguistic institutions attempt to police the use of language, nowadays a major part of the English-speaking world associates “flamingo” to the flamenco art world. It is interesting to consider the history of this etymological slip. According to the official Spanish Dictionary “Flamenco, -ca” as an adjective, comes from the Dutch language and refers to 1) a native of Flanders, a northern region of Europe. 2) Someone with some sort of relation to or connection with Flanders, i.e. someone Flemish. 3) A specific period in the history of art dating from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. And 4) last but not least, “flamenco” describes a manifestation of southern Spanish culture or its interpreter, and is associated mainly with gypsy society.
The “flamenco” of Flanders, the Netherlands, is known in English as Flemish. In the sixteenth century, the term “flamengo” was used as a differentiating term and to highlight the hegemony of the southern provinces of the Netherlands (a region that was under Spanish rule at the time) over northern Holland. At this time, the Spanish monarchy waged war on its northern European subjects. And the war left a footprint. Many Spanish gypsies joined the army and travelled to fight with Spanish crown’s Army of Flanders. “Anatomy of History: Spanish Gypsies in the Army of Flanders” explains how this group of people belonging to Spanish society found themselves in the military. They turned out to be indispensable on the battlefield. Their organisational abilities and hierarchical group structures, austere way of life and toughness, familiarity with unfavourable weather and excellent horsemanship were highly valued by Spanish military officals. Moreover, in Spain, the gypsies were greatly marginalised by the law. Enrolling in the military allowed these men, and the communities from whence they came, to benefit from considerable rewards on their return from Flanders. Once a gypsy had served in the army he was exempt from the restrictive legislation that had previously applied to him, among other benefits. A connection can be drawn from the gypsy presence in Flanders and the origin of the word “flamenco” as used to reference the style of song and dance mainly practiced by gypsies.
Flamencos in Andalucía
The writer, Félix Grande, theorises the word “flamenco” is a combination of the words “gypsy” and “flamengo.” He claims that this term was used to differentiate between the gypsies who had remained in Spain, who still belonged to the ghettos or “gitanerias,” and those that had fought in Flanders. The latter were referred to as “gypsies from Flanders,” and later simply as “the flamencos,” to indicate that they received special privileges for their service to the Spanish crown. Their songs were known as flamenco songs and their dance was known as flamenco dance. According to Grande, to this day there are places in Andalucía where gypsies refer to themselves as “flamencos” independently of whether or not they sing and dance the art form of the same name. “Flamingo” in English can be translated as “flamenco” in Spanish. “Flamenco” in Spanish tends to be conceived as an art form with a Spanish origin and essence. “Flamingo” in a Tablao? Yes, Sir! (And you won’t find a bird, but rather flamenco dancers and musicians!)
This past summer was special. Three events were put together by Tablao de Carmen to impact the summer season in three different cities: Santander, Bagur and Pals. The soul of the Tablao de Carmen, its current artistic cast and our approach left our premises to the open air and away from Barcelona.
PART 1: SANTANDER
The first gift from the Centro Botín to its city of Santander: Carmen Amaya and El Yiyo
Tribute to Carmen Amaya for the inauguration of Centro Botín´s Amphitheatre: there is not much Flamenco in Santander. And there aren´t any “tablaos”. But Carmen Amaya is buried in Santander where her husband Juan Antonio Agüero was from.
And the Botín Cultural Center decided on a Flamenco Show for the opening of its public open air space designed by the great architect Renzo Piano. Carmen was from Barcelona and from her same native town came the dance of El Yiyo and his brother el Tete, to celebrate under the stars, facing the sea and the famous bay, a timeless and eternal flamenco. A solo guitar opened the night with the very same guitar that Juan Antonio Agüero used to accompany her dance.
PART 2: BAGUR
Aniversario del último baile de Carmen Amaya 18 Agosto 1963
In 1961, after touring the world, Carmen Amaya and her husband decided to buy a house in Spain and they found it in the Costa Brava, in the village of Bagur.Se hizo amiga de todo el pueblo. She befriended all the villagers.
From her house, the “Mas Pinc”, Carmen could see the old “castle” (an ancient light house). She was determined to dance in order to collect funds so she could light it up when sun was gone. She did and this was the last time she danced.
Today the descendants of the villagers at the time do live the mark and the memory that Carmen left behind her. The Association of Traders of Bagur have organised for the first time a tribute to her last performance.
PART 3: PALS
“Flamenco de Sangre” Show production by “El Yiyo” for the White Summer of Pals.
The last edition of the famous White Summer Festival in Pals (Gerona) offered a Flamenco show production for the first time. They picked El Yiyo and his show “Flamenco de Sangre” which its premiere was December 2016, first time side by side with his brother.
For the festivities of “La Mercè”, the patron saint of Barcelona, the Dance took over the streets and in the big Avenue of Paseo San Juan we could see a lot of dancing!
La Mercè 2017
“La Mercè” celebrated this year its famous Dance Festival in the Arch of Triumph. Lots of performances in all its forms and shapes. Flamenco did not miss the date. And one of its most interesting organizers, Arias Fernández “Jocker”, came to the Tablao de Carmen to look for el Tete.
An instant connection
Both connected instantly. The self-taught and streetwise past of Arias did recognise the truth and coolness of Tete´s flamenco dance. Tete, Ricardo Fernández, a young dancer from Badalona started dancing at the Tablao de Carmen just before his 16th birthday in May 2016. Within a rich program of radically different dance styles (from Classic Ballet to Claqué, Hip Hop, Jazz and Krump) Arias melted each one of them with different stories, taking into account the personality of each artist and each performance. Following this line of style, El Tete danced “Soleá”, without guitar, but backed up by the singing of Luis Fernández and the percussion of Jacobo Sánchez´s “box”.
Don´t you know EL Tete?
It is worth quoting the genius introduction of Arias Fernández to present El Tete on stage: “Don´t you know El Tete?, but...What do you mean? Are you then sure you do not know El Tete?”. Many among the audience met him then, but for those who were not there those days of La Mercè can come to see him dance in the Tablao de Carmen, where he dances daily “in his real flamenco environment”.
During this winter season 2017-2018 El Tete will continue to dance most days at the Tablao de Carmen backed by the house artist cast.