Bolero: history, songs and composers of the World Heritage genre



The bolero has been recognized by UNESCO. The composition, performance and transmission of this musical genre now have the title of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity according to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.

In March of last year, the Ministry of Culture of Cuba and the Ministry of Culture of the Mexican Government presented the file ‘Bolero: identity, emotion and poetry made song’ so that the romantic genre would be included as a World Heritage Site. The bet has been successful. This Tuesday the committee distinguished the compositions and guitar ornaments that give boleros melancholy, love and nostalgia. The bolero candidacy was supported in Mexico and Cuba by organizations and agencies such as the Mexico Bolero Institute (IBM) and the General Directorate of Popular, Indigenous and Urban Cultures. A host of composers, authors, arrangers, musicians, performers, academics and cultural promoters supported the candidacy.

According to the Ministry of Culture, “inscription as Intangible Cultural Heritage is a tool that reinforces safeguarding by encouraging the creation of specific plans and actions for its preservation. Likewise, it contributes to legitimizing these practices as a cultural right and an expression of diversity.”

Origin of the bolero, Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The bolero was born in Santiago de Cuba in the 19th century. As if it were a premonition, the first bolero was called Sadness, by José Sánchez. The song was composed during the war for Cuban Independence, led by José Martí, and tells of the impossible romance between two people. “There is no proof of love that shows how much I suffer and suffer for you.”

The first female bolero player was the Cuban María Teresa Vera. Coming from a family of slaves, at the age of 15 she began her musical career with the song Mercedes, by Manuel Corona. “For her I sing and cry, for her I feel love. “For you, dear Mercy, my pain is extinguished.”

Until the beginning of the century, the genre began to be heard in Havana; Later, due to its proximity to Cuba, he emigrated to Mexico. The lands of Veracruz and Yucatán became the customs of the musical genre. In those two States, two of the greatest representatives of bolero in Mexico were born years later: Agustín Lara and Armando Manzanero. The first Mexican bolerista was Guty Cárdenas, who composed Feeling. “Without knowing you existed, I wanted you, before meeting you I guessed you.”

The bolero began its journey in Mexico as a symphony of cantinas, bars and slums. It was a genre that told love stories among the poor and that lived its first years away from the country’s upper classes. According to Alicia Martínez Medrano “it was a response from the people to the opera.” The radio became the instrument to popularize this musical genre and bring it to most homes in the country. In September 1921, the first radio program was broadcast in Mexico. One of the first radio stations was XEW, where the so-called Flaco de Oro promoted the musical genre in Mexico and the world.

In Mexico, the bolero was enriched to form new subgenres. According to Evangelina Tapia Tovar, head of the Sociology and Anthropology department at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes, Mexico contributed musical trios such as Los Panchos; orchestras and dance boleros, with Pérez Prado; ranchero boleros, with Javier Solís and Pedro Infante as representatives; as well as a modern version: the romantic bolero with Armando Manzanero and Luis Miguel.

Composers and songs to understand the history of the bolero

The main composer of boleros in Mexico is Agustín Lara, in whose songs the legacy of the bolero tradition is found: Only once, Veracruz, Night Watch and Take my life away They are some of his most recognized compositions. The Mexican Consuelo or Consuelito Velázquez highlighted by Kiss Me a lot and bitter truth. Roberto Cantoral composed The boat, Clock and the success of José José, not classified as a bolero, The sad.

The bolero spread throughout the world and found in the Chilean Lucho Gética another of its greatest representatives with with you in the distance. The Panamanian Carlos Eleta Almarán composed A love storyperformed years later by Luis Miguel on his bolero album Romance.

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