Mercedes Sosa – La Negra

From the Prologue, Fragments


Mercedes Sosa did not want to pretend to write her memoirs using a ghostwriter. He did not want to send the part or pretend. This is a biography written aloud. The task was arduous: before me I had a life marked by performances in dozens and dozens of tours in dozens and dozens of countries, in hundreds and hundreds of cities, in monumental stadiums and in lofty halls, before audiences of up to one hundred thousand people and so on. select such as those in the Carniege Hall, or the Nobel Prize Hall in Stockholm, or the Vatican itself. It was necessary to tell that trajectory and the background of a personal life that was born in the arduous poverty stalked by hunger and that was later framed by ideological commitment, death threats, exile. The paradox of this life is that, the more heartbreak and pain personally and emotionally, the more success, the more artistic ovations, the more fame. I was faced with the problem of abundance which is sometimes no less terrible than that of scarcity. I had to figure out how to tell the prodigious life of this woman who is (with Carlos Gardel), without discussion, the most prestigious and world-renowned popular singer produced by Argentina (and Latin America) in the 20th century. I decided to let the character, with his impulses, impose the mechanics, structure and rhythms of this book. I preferred an antimethodology, or if you prefer, a methodology the other way around. And that is how this text came out, which is not, orthodoxly speaking, a biography or an autobiography like the ones that are usually proposed.

This is a book from Mercedes Sosa and about Mercedes Sosa. The vertebral column is his first-person account. She counts and is counted. She writes out loud. On the other hand, linking with his saying, the voices of his mother, his son, his brothers, and his closest friends appear. Told by her and by those close to her, the story of her amazing existence unfolds.

It is not all: every so often, with their testimonies and memories, figures appear that from other angles offer different portraits of our character, referring not only to the supreme singer but, above all, to the woman who is far from the stage and the ovations . Among the portraitists of the other Mercedes are, for example, León Gieco, Horacio Molina, Víctor Heredia, Liliana Herrera, Carlos Alonso, Charly García. To these three aspects (the story of Mercedes herself, that of her family and close friends, and that of her portraitists), chronicles are added that rescue memorable and dramatic episodes lived by her. In other cases, these chronicles reconstruct the areas in which Mercedes became a woman and grew up as an artist. The recurrence to the issue of primordial meals is not accidental, they have the value that a close character, an ideology, a religion can have.

Chance has its things. And chance is also, to a large extent, the author of this book. They did not tell me a number of episodes narrated here, I did not have to go to investigate them, I lived them privileged by the possibility of my journalistic work and by a friendship of more than thirty years. With La Negra we share celebrations, joys, deaths, births, wines, cries, terrors. As a journalist I had to interview her no less than fifteen times. As a chronicler, I attended memorable nights like the one at the Colón theater, in which the de facto general president Alejandro Agustín Lanusse ended up standing up, singing with the magnetized audience “Song with everyone”. I witnessed and lived Mendoza nights when Mercedes discovered the world of artists, intellectuals (among them Armando Tejada Gómez, Carlos Alonso, Di Benedetto, Benito Marianetti, Dante Polimeni, Ángel Bustelo, Fernando Lorenzo, Luis Quesada, Iverna Codina) . I shared unforgettable hours in the old house of the mother from Tucumán, in Barrio Jardín, to the beat of locro and empanadas. One afternoon in 1984, I attended an unexpected meeting lasting almost two hours in an occasional café between the singer and Caetano Veloso. Not all were celebrations: night by night, in a vigilant and tense round of friends, I lived the month of performances by Mercedes Sosa at the Estrellas theater, in 1975, after the death threat by Triple A. I also shared his most terrible death , that of her second husband, Pocho Mazzitelli. I attended the return when wanting to live from Mercedes after her illness and near death in 1997.

In other words, that this book, beyond the recorded encounters and the systematic work based on the biographical development (about five months), has been concocted for forty years, secretly, by chance facilitated by journalistic curiosity and the endearing friendship that naturally includes some fights and estrangements.

This biography aloud, resolved with the assembly of a chorus of voices linked to the vertebral narration of Mercedes, had to choose between strictly adjusting to the chronological documentation or following a barely paced, relatively ordered path. We opted for the latter: we sacrifice the gathering of information, the detail of events to give free rein to the comings and goings of Mercedes, to the narration of events and experiences and reflections arising more from the spontaneous choice of her instinct than from obedience to a detailed and systematic plan.

We therefore put aside the meticulous memory attached to the almanac, to allow the impulses of that other almanac to flow that obeys the memory of the heart. Naturally, walking this path, we sacrifice the exhaustive account of a number of events to enable the emergence of a number of experiences, of intensities. Here Mercedes Sosa is both what she says with her words and what she chooses to tell, sometimes from a worried reflection, sometimes from pain and anguish, sometimes from candor. All this travels through a by no means rigid itinerary, but that does have some basic stations: childhood, adolescence, artistic awakening, courtships, sweethearts, loves, heartbreak, ideology, ecology, Triple A, military dictatorship, censorship, prison, exile, world consecration in the five continents, religious beliefs, illness with the desire for suicide in 97, testament…

Even knowing that advising is not advisable, I dare to suggest that this book be read (listened to) first with the ear of the heart, then with the ear of the brain.


Prologue to the second edition So shout and so tear, so epic and so petal

He was born apenitas after Gardel’s departure. Chance knows what it does to us. She died, they say she died, on the birthday of Violeta Parra. Chance still knows what it does to us. Thank you. Thanks to life.

We knew, we knew, that Mercedes Sosa, La Negra, singer and songwriter, was worldwide and venerated by the existing social classes and by having. We knew, yes, but we had no idea how global it was, how deeply revered it was. On October 4, 2009 after Christ we could see is believe. Before her death, either we lost our speech or we fell into the abyss of common places. Being the author of the only biography woven with Mercedes Sosa alive, from distant cities and towns of the country, and from the three Americas, and from Europe, I received a repeated request: to write “the last goodbye”, to answer recurring questions summarized in a “what do we lose by losing La Negra?” I must confess: I was reckless to write the word goodbye thinking of Mercedes Sosa, and my plugs popped out. There was no, there is no case. Goodbye is for those who leave, and La Negra, always singing, has done nothing but stay. It sounds like a very worn out commonplace, sorry, but I say it: she could not be forgotten, even if we organized ourselves for that. The famous death is not perfect, he does not always get his way. Less in the case of La Negra.

It is not a metaphor for an occasion that death, in some cases, loses the game without turning. With our Mercedes death will not be able to. Reckless claim, naive claim? The reality, which is sometimes the best truth, made us see. One example among so many: it is known that football fans feed on confrontation, injury and insult to rival who have always become an enemy. This, which is always the case, had an exceptional pause. On October 4, 2009, in various soccer fields in Argentina, during what should have been a minute of silence, the always festering fans gathered for the unanimity of a sudden La Negra no se vaaaa! / La Negra is not goingaaa! How do you get that? Is there who can organize it?

La Negra could. Miracle that did not fall from the sky. Unimagined miracle. Sown by her, the miracle. La Negra has not died, enough of that. I think that the dimension of what it meant, means and will mean requires another angle of reflection. I try now: Our planet, so offended, so looted, despite everything insists on living, continues to have a pulse. How is it possible?

It is possible because, in addition to preventive genocides, in addition to missiles with collateral damage, hunger against nature, illiteracy and illiteracy, in addition to so much organized destruction, in front, holding an arduous arm wrestling, without holidays, there is a crowd that has no name or names, woven by the tenacity of women and men who work and study and dream piecemeal and make love of love to rajacincha. Precisely because of this indefatigable arm wrestling that these beings, the primordial ones, sustain, this world continues with a pulse.

Let’s face the consequence question: where do they get and renew their strength, what do the primordial ones feed on? They feed on the sun that insists on peering out, on the bread of active hope kneaded by infinite passionate hands. But not only from that: they also feed on earthly miracles. What is called an earthly miracle? At her voice. Our Major Black.

I think, and feel: we will never lose it. It is not an expression of desire. La Negra does not leave, among other things, because she achieved, by singing, another impossible miracle: that of coagulating the love of the four social classes that we Argentines have sown since the atrocious civic-military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla associated with Martínez de Hoz. We saw it in the incessant parade in the Congress of the Argentine Nation. All clothing, all skin colors, all ages passed through there. The rich, the middle class, the usual poor and also those who do not even get to poor, the broken ones passed through there. A man in his 60s, slippers, voice sanded by the weather, lingered for seconds in front of the coffin. He stopped and said, austere and twisted: “Permission. Black dear, thank you for everything, thank you. And no, and don’t let me down huh! “

How is it possible

UA desperate despair suffocates you when you hear it:
How is it possible that this woman sings like this,
from and to so far?
How is it possible that I sing so deeply
from and with such an echo?
With what flour was that loaf of loaves made,
that unique bread that is La Negra in the state of song?
What hands were kneading it,
with what yeasts, sufferings and joys
that voice with a unique face became
that crosses social classes, languages, races, religions?
Can the inexplicable be explained?
Can the secrets of a gift be revealed?

In any case, it is possible to glimpse certain obvious secrets. The gift of a voice does not consist only in its qualities, in its excellence. The voice is worth it, yes, but with its most intimate countenance, with its marrow, with that echo that emerges from the plot composed of joys and sufferings, dreams and frustrations, exiles and returns, tears and hopes, loves and heartbreak. The gift of a voice, of this Voice, comes even from the taste and aromas of home-made meals. Among the folds of this biography we can find the small matter that, interwoven, produces that prodigy that is La Negra in the state of song.

That’s right: we talk about the singer-songwriter all the time. It is a miracle we say. Going into her days and nights, in her sunrises and insomnia, it will help us to begin to understand why her Voice could be so screaming and so tearful, so immense and so tender, so epic and so petal. Among other things because he was nourished by parents capable of going through poverty without giving up a unique fruit: the fruit of joy despite everything.

Every time she sings, she bites into the fruit, and wading through the weather of poverty, she reaches the stone, the fruit. She sings so immensely because in her little inner lake she treasures a received inheritance: she knows that there is no one who can with joy, because there is no one who can with love. She, speaking raw, somehow sows us the keys to get closer to that voice with foundation that reaches so deep in our hearts, even if she sings at Luna Park, Colón or Olimpia, in Latin America or in Europe. or in the Far East.

Before continuing: In my prologue to the first edition of this biography (2003) I count entretelas: I wrote it leaving aside the meticulousness tied to the almanac to give way to the flow of the impulses of that other almanac, the one that obeys the primordial memory from the heart. So, even knowing that the access paths to any book are always the reader’s discretion, I dared to suggest that, wherever it is accessed, this biography should be read (listened to) before with the ear of the heart and later with the ear of the brain. . In this edition, the definitive one, my suggestion is the same. (In other words: this edition fully respects the contents of the first. The additions are only informative, in the appendix, to complete the chronology and discography from 2003 to 2009.)


I propose to the reader, at this time, in addition to listening with the heart, to close the eyes to see further. Let’s observe how she tells us and by telling herself she illuminates the secrets that backbone that voice so close and so unreachable. She will say of her grandparents: “Part of my roots comes from Santiago del Estero, land of people born to be good. My paternal grandparents got married young. My grandmother was not 15 years old, when she had already given birth to her first child. The children came one after the other, without regard, and were born in the houses. When the time came, the man said to his wife, almost a child: ‘Stop playing and put water in the pot to boil. I’m going to find the midwife. ‘ This is how my father came… One was born without so much history, with the windows open, the sun or the moon shining ”.

He will say of love forever: “That of my dad and my mom is a love story forever. I know, I look like a peacock; everyone says that is impossible. Impossible? My dad and mom were never bored of loving each other, never… I don’t know how they met… or I do know, they told me about it while mate after nap. They were at an angel wake; at those wakes, in northern Argentina, the button game is played and sung … In the game, everyone has their fists clenched and someone has a button in their hand. You have to guess who. Naive? To a certain extent, because it is about face … My father looked at the faces and when he got to my mother he said respectfully: “The lady has the button.” My mother had it. That’s where it all started… ”She will say of them:“ I like to go back to my parents. Without them, who would I be? It would be less than anyone else … My father’s life lasts: he was a stevedore, he manned logs, he worked in the mill kiln in the middle of summer, poor thing … But he never suffered as he did in the sawmill. There was no glass of milk there, no masks. Until my mother said: ‘It will be what God wants, but you don’t work there anymore.’ My dad was a corpse that walked. Oh, how we waited on Saturdays: that day he brought his little flock. By then my mother had only salted water to boil. She worked miracles in the kitchen herself. Pancakes, bread, noodles came out of a kilo of flour and an egg … There was a time when my father lost his job … In the end they gave him a little place in hell: he fed the terrible cauldrons of the mill. Those who helped him the most were the people from Santiago … they brought food and set aside a plate for him. The poor helping each other among the poor. My dad didn’t take his food ration because… because it wasn’t enough in my house. Poor.”
(Pause and ask: Is it because of these lived things that La Negra sings that deeply?)

Let’s keep listening to her: “My mother washed and ironed for the houses of people with a good time. You had to see us, her children, always dressed as the best, because my mother accepted old clothes and invented them anew. I don’t like to flaunt my poverty, I tell it as a tribute to my parents. There were nights when we went to bed with that stomach ache that comes from hunger. My mother joked, gave us a roll, cooked mate and took us out to play at Parque 9 de Julio. We gnawed air, we ate innocence… My dad and my mom managed to light each day. If I had to put my whole childhood into one word, I would choose ‘happiness’. We were so poor but so millionaires! My parents were not only self-sacrificing, they were wise: they never made us suffer their suffering. There was joy in the house. And inside the joy was happiness, like daily bread ”.

That Voice that sings from so far and so deep, we see, nests its keys in that poverty that did not lose the primordial joy. When Mercedes is on the crucial stage, in the leap into the void that she imposes on her songs, she sees things.
What do you see
She sees her mother wash and iron an infinite number of other people’s clothes …
See how with a handful of flour, mixed with equal parts laughter, he does the multiplication of the loaves again …

The question persists, reappears: How, how is it possible to sing like this: this deep, this far? While the answer is cooked with the patience of the embers, let us continue listening to this woman, so alone and so accompanied: “A loneliness accompanied by a river of worshipers is still loneliness. What a paradox of mine. As the poet Serafín Andrés would say: I am alone, so loved by a crowd made in my image and likeness… This is the thing, this is my thing. What is happiness? For me it is breathing in the smell of food while it is being made. And the loneliness? Loneliness is what I have felt for so many years when night falls. My bed is so empty … I can lie down looking this way or looking there, it doesn’t matter, because I’m alone … No no no, loneliness does not discount either the beautiful or the famous. There are moments when one would exchange applause and fame for the caress, for the sound of the partner’s breathing sharing the days and nights … I feel that loneliness is my enemy; I may have to learn to be friends with my enemy … But I am not ungrateful: I also feel something deep in my heart, and I don’t know whether to call it joy … Joy because I am alive, and being alive I have learned to smell when I breathe I’ll see when I look ”.

We all have five senses and sometimes a sixth. She backwards. That is why in her latest album, Cantora, she brought together such distant, so different singers. It was the coagulant of the most intense diversities. That is why, as the years and generations go by, she awakens such numb areas. That is why in the personal biography of infinite thousands, each stage of those lives always has a record of this older sister in the background.

This is how things are going: her Voice has been making nests in the hearts of millions. What a prodigious alchemy: she, so lonely as a companion, singing can lift our dreams, can become a baker who distributes happiness without looking at whom. She got everything and she always does, with that sixth sense that is the first in her.
There is no case, she has not died: she breathes in another way.
La Negra did not leave, La Negra did not leave.


Why do I speak, like this, in the present, if all the news insist on telling us that Mercedes Sosa already died on the fifth day of October 2009? Please, a bit of judgment: the news, so many times, essentially lies, it is untrue. If she was born it would not be to die. The air, this air that we now breathe, she learned by heart. Enough that we rest our ears on the chest of the air to hear it. Ladies and gentlemen, does anyone dare deny it? She, our Senior Black, is singing. The sun knows.
Some believe God in lowercase, others believe in uppercase. Let’s assume God. He is now on a cloud (but not in the clouds). God has found out that Mercedes Sosa, already healthy and without the burden of unbearable sadness, is singing again. She immediately gathers her cabinet of advisory angels and orders them: Go see if it rains. All huh. At last alone, the Supreme looks for the drill he inherited from his grandfather, makes a hole in the floor of the great cloud, stretches out and supports his ear. From below, from the kingdom of Earth, the Voice of La Negra rises, divine because human. God puffs out his chest, and thinking aloud he consoles himself: Hitler and Bush and Massera and that gang didn’t turn out well for me. But this woman does. And cupping his hands, he shouts at her through the hole in the cloud: Never die, Black, for God’s sake! Our Black woman will pay attention to him, forever and ever.

Rodolfo Braceli
(as of January 2010)

This is the definitive edition of Mercedes Sosa. La Negra, the only biography that was made with her living word. At 67 years of age, she decided to finalize the book about her life. She did not want to pretend to be a writer. His is a biography aloud. She counts and is counted. For a complex and atypical character, Rodolfo Braceli chose an unusual path. All her background as a writer, journalist, playwright and poet is displayed in this original book from and about Mercedes Sosa. On the one hand, the tale of the supreme singer-songwriter is the spine. On the other, voices emerge: that of her mother and siblings, that of her son and friends.

From time to time, figures such as León Gieco, Horacio Molina, Víctor Heredia, Liliana Herrero, Carlos Alonso and Charly García appear with their memories. They complete the portrait of the other Mercedes, the one who is far from the ovations.
It is not all: the voice, at times raw of the protagonist, is added in the montage the story of dramatic and memorable episodes that marked her life and career. Braceli did not have to go to investigate them, he shared them directly, privileged by the close friendship with her.

This book that began to take shape almost half a century ago includes childhood, adolescence, artistic awakening, loves and heartbreaks, ideology, ecology, Triple A death threat, censorship and exile, glorious return in 82, world consecration, disease with appetite of suicide in 97, testament. As Liliana Herrero wrote: “We are before a passionate confession, but also before an extraordinary document. Before a political book and also deeply intimate, public and private, indispensable to tell the cultural history of this country. “

The dramatic here alternates with humor and pain is shuffled with celebration. The meticulous memory of the almanac is put aside and the memory of the heart is given rein. Mercedes Sosa reveals herself here, from vehemence and anger, from worried reflection, from pain and anguish, from mischief and humor, from a devastating candor.
Due to its structure and its approaches, this biography is unlike any other; It is exciting.

Mercedes Sosa - La Voz de la Esperanza
Mercedes Sosa - La Voz de la Esperanza


Rodolfo Braceli was born in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, in 1940. Since 1970 he lives and works in Buenos Aires. He has written poetry, novels, short stories, essays and theater. Since 2001 he has given his seminar “Journalism and Literature / Profession Secrets” in Universities and schools of Social Communication. In 1996 he won the Pléyade award for his interview with Gabriel García Márquez.

His first published book, Pautas eneras, was banned and burned in Mendoza in 1962 by decision of the de facto government. His work includes: The last father (1974); The conversation of the bodies (1982); The human mass (1998); Our fathers who are in heaven / Borgesperón (1994); Out of context (1991); Federico García comes to be born / And now the resurrected one from Violenta Violeta (1991); Faces, faces and masks (1996); Don Borges, take out your knife because I have come to kill you (1979-1998); Argentinos en la cornisa (1998); Argentine mother there is only one (1999); We are about football (2001); Vincent, I’ll wait for you naked at the end of the book (2007); Perfume de gol (2009); Barefoot Writers (2010); One Hundred Years of Solitude –the interview as fiction and essay– (2012); Dear enemy (2013); Identity cells (2014); The flour man (in press, 2015). He is the author of the biographies of Julio Bocca (1995) and Mercedes Sosa (2003).

He wrote the script and directed the film Nicolino Intocable Locche. In 2010 he received the Bicentennial Medal for his journalistic career, awarded by the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires. Due to his career as a writer and journalist, in 2001 he was declared an Illustrious Citizen of Mendoza; and in 2003 Illustrious Citizen of Luján de Cuyo, his birthplace.