“You are going to become a rockstar“, A journalist warned José Monje Cruz (San Fernando, 1950-Badalona, 1992) in a television interview in the mid-70s. And he, dressed in a red jumpsuit, proudly replied:” It seems divine to me because it is what we are trying”. The declaration of intentions almost blushes the visitor who sees it, projected almost immersively on one of the five huge screens that populate the Camarón de la Isla museum in his hometown. Because Monje was not enough to change from a traditional flamenco singer to a mass idol, or to become a legend. The child of the blacksmith and the basket that dreamed of being a bullfighter ended up forging a musical revolution to which San Fernando pays tribute, starting this Friday, in an interpretation center in which the myth itself tells its iconic story in the first person.
Neither the City Council – manager of the space – nor the family – who has chartered a bus from La Línea de la Concepción, where they live – have wanted to overshadow the inauguration ceremony with the struggle that legally confronts them, on account of the exploitation rights of the Camarón brand. The widow, Dolores Montoya The Spark, and his four children already made it clear last December that they consider that the space lacks a license on industrial and intellectual property rights and ask for financial compensation, apart from the 2,500 euros per month they receive from 2014 to 2064, by virtue of of the agreement that they signed with the consistory. But neither the mayor, Patricia Cavada, nor Montoya have wanted to stop at that obstacle at an appointment held on the 29th anniversary of the death of the great cantaor. “Although I know it is a sad day for his widow, Dolores, and his family, we can celebrate that San Fernando pays off a historic debt and fulfills his commitment to his most illustrious son,” said the councilor.
Between the Venta de Vargas, an establishment closely linked to Camarón, and the sculpture that pays tribute to the artist there was a physical void of just a few meters that now occupies the modern building that was inaugurated this Friday afternoon, with the presence of the President of the Junta de Andalucía, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla. More than five million euros of public investment to build a 1,200-square-meter building, full of photographs, instruments, personal memories, manuscripts, garments, awards and even the famous white Mercedes in which the singer was moving, which now receives the visitor upon arrival. But it has not been easy to order and give meaning to such varied pieces. “It is the museum of a contemporary, of someone who should be alive. With that distance there is no perspective and it is more complicated ”, says David Romero, museographer of the Womack company, who has been in charge of making the interpretive speech. The event was attended by famous flamenco artists such as the singer David Palomar or Paco Cepero, the guitarist who accompanied Monje on many occasions.
Along two floors, the building takes a chronological walk through the life of the artist: Origin, Legend and Revolution. After recalling that adolescent stage of improvised cantes in the street – a space to which the ground floor of the building opens precisely – the tour stops at the moment of Camarón’s revelation. “They are ten years of orthodoxy with Paco de Lucía in which they go very far. But when he married (in 1976), he broke with the above, ”says Romero. These are the years of producer Ricardo Pachón and The legend of time his tenth album, so misunderstood by his people – it barely sold 6,000 copies, compared to the gold record of I am gipsy, published 1989— as valuable in understanding how the artist became a myth. In a brief turn to speak and visibly excited, The Spark She has simply stated: “I would love for my husband to see this, but his children and grandchildren are here. He deserves it”.
More than five hours of recordings spread over huge screens help visitors to immerse themselves in the Camarón phenomenon, aided by the singer’s own voice, thanks to excerpts from the many interviews he gave. The tour does not forget the shadows, such as the summons to the trial in which he was sentenced to a year in prison for reckless driving and causing an accident that killed two people. Or the page of EL PAÍS in which the islander claimed in 1991 to have left behind his addiction to heroin and cocaine. Just a year later, José Monje Cruz died of lung cancer. The genius who wanted to be one was leaving rockstar and ended up becoming an immortal legend. Because, as Cavada has recalled “eternity, sometimes, does have names and surnames.”