Rosita Alarcón, popular singer.
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Home/Stories and articles/People
December 2001

Rosa Alarcón, popular singer:
Rosita and her guitar

The evenings at the school, angels´ wakes, saints´ holidays, the treshing and the harvest were the breeding ground for the love of singing of this woman. She came from the farm and not until her fifties dared show her voice and guitar in the southwest area of Santiago.

By Rosario Mena

Born in Las Hortensias, Cunco, Cautín province, Rosita Alarcón arrived in Santiago on the year 1960 to work as a home maid. Years later she got married and became a housewife. The cleaning, cooking and care of her husband and four children could not silence a true passion: the love for the traditional country song, that Rosita has cultivated since a little girl.

"With my sisters we would get together to sing. I also sang on the school evenings, but did not play guitar. On the parties at the farm I just listened. What I like most are the `parabienes´ that you do for a wedding or a birthday, and the `esquinazos´ one sings for the saints. You can sing an `esquinazo´ for the Virgin, if there is a procession going by. You put yourself in front of her and sing".

After moving to the capital, the TV show "Tierra adentro" and the Mexican songs that were played on the radio, were for a long time the only exit for an interest hidden by domestic obligations. "I would sing the mexican songs, which are simple: corridos, rancheras... like a vals but faster". Until one day, when she turned 50, she went to the Cultural Center of her commune, Lo Prado, and started a new life. "I went as therapy, was kind of depressed and the doctor told me to do something I liked. There I found professor Osvaldo Jaque and he started teaching me. I had to go hidden, because my husband didn´t like me going out. Now he´s accepting it more".

After a while, her teacher realized that this student had a big knowledge on her. "He started playing tunings and saw that I understood some. On the country singing you play the guitar crossed over. I knew that because when I was little, we would go with my parents to see how the singers played on the south. The teacher would help me and I started singing on my own, with the guitar, listening to some tapes. So I started investigating on the peasant singing. I would like to go back to the fields, even when the old people are no longer there. Parties are not like they used to be, they would go on for two or three days".

With tapes and recordings made on the fields and the big help of her invaluable teacher -a prestigious popular singer and folklorist- and a borrowed guitar, Rosa began reuniting the songs that are now part of her repertoire.

"I try to play them as close I can to the original version. I sing the songs I remember best, because memory sometimes fails me, I get too nervous". Through don Osvaldo, with whom she has worked on two records, Rosita got in touch with the people at Popular Traditions and Oral Literature Archives, in the National Library, who have helped her and even invited her to sing more than once. Violeta Parra, Margot Loyola and Patricia Chavarría are her favorite singers. "What´s nice is the spark, the spice that you add when singing", says Rosita. And even when her thing is the rural "tonada", she does not want to avoid our national dance, the cueca. "At a party you always have to close with a couple of cuecas", she explains.

More than a job, singing has been for Rosita a way for feeling a more complete person, and reclaim a place for her own. "Home consumes woman. So it helps to do other things, the person values herself more. Homework is rarely recognized, it´s just an obligation, nobody thanks you for it. For me, singing has been a motivation for living. With songs, you express what you feel. So now I give fun to old ladies, I teach them songs and how to sing".

Nevertheless, she feels that women's obligations with their homes can not be avoided. "Before, the peasants would be born and die at the same house. Now, people are more liberal. Because the modern woman works, she has to share that with her house, because if you loose your home, you loose everything. Your partner may not understand. If you take the responsibility of working outside your home, you have to know that there are jobs for you that you must do anyway. You win your partner with love and food".

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