La Petenera

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La Petenera has died
and they are taking her to be buried
people couldn’t fit in the street
because of the many people behind.

(Copla popular)

Ghost, artist and the damnation of men. La Petenera is a myth more than a woman, nobody
knows where did she came from or where did she went, some people mantain that she was
natural from Paterna de la Rivera (Cádiz), some others believe she was from Málaga, and
many people ensures that Petenera was from Cuba, based on the copla:

At the Habana I was born
under a palm tree
the moors baptised me
the called me Petenera

But by far the most popular belief is that the Petenera was jewish because nowadays,
sephardic jews are still singing peteneras. So if the hypothesis is true, jews must have lost
their heads and made songs about her before their expulsion from the iberian peninsula in
1492. Is because of them that gypsies did not sang peteneras at the time, at risk of being
mistaken by a jew and having ended up suffering the same destiny as these people.
This belief has transcended to our days, many “flamencos”, specially gypsies, do not sing by
peteneras because it is taken as a symbol of “mal fario” (bad luck).

Even though it is true that many of of their best “cantaores” where gypsies there are many more like Antonio
Mairena who never sang by peteneras until one time, right before he died.
Not everything is death and ignorance with la Petenera, this “palo” with mystery woman
name has also great interpreters like Paco el Sanluqueño, Pepe Marchena, Carmen Linares,

Medina el Viejo and the Niña de los Peines among others.
But in the end, the word Petenera evoques emotions and feelings to all flamenco lovers, it
means romance, mitery, passion and pain; something inherent and pure of this art.
Tu entierro fue de gente siniestra.

Your burial was of sinister people
Gente con el corazón en la cabeza,
People with the heart in the head
que te siguió llorando por las callejas.
People that kept on crying for you at the streets
¡Ay, petenera gitana!
Ay, Gypsy petenera!

Federico García Lorca

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