The amazing Cuban singer known as La Lupe was introduced to me by my mother. This woman with her torch song boleros and rhythmic salsas were embedded in my mind from the repetitious playing my mother would do for the majority part of my upbringing. Everyday I would here La Lupe as well as others and became familiar with the words and the way they expressed themselves.
I grew up and enjoyed hearing my mother sing all the time. For a woman that smokes a pack a day and drinks she had a beautiful voice. No matter what she was doing and what time of the day it was there was always music playing in the house. As the years passed I learned that depending on what mommy was listening to usually let you know what mood she was in. If it was Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente or Willie Colon she was usually in a good mood. It usually the bills were paid, that the rent was up to par, that the worry list was not so stressful and of course Mr. Vodka was her date for the evening. Mommy would be hearing music while taking shots with beer chasers and you would hear her singing and dancing while she cooked and worked on the sewing machine.

Then there were nights that Ana Gabriel, Pimpinela  and Lily Y El Gran Trio was her company and along with the Mr. Vodka there was sadness. Now I must say that it was when she played La Lupe that I knew mommy was gonna drink and go in real deep. I was young at the time and though I knew not to be in her line of vision and even thought I didn’t really understand the lyrics of the songs, I knew by the way she sang them that she was in a different place. There was so much passion in my mothers voice that I mistook for pain. In my 20’s is when I was re-introduced to La Lupe on a deeper level and it was there and then that I understood that my mother was in such a pain. La Lupe to me was the spanish version of Billie Holiday. No one can sing of love and all its ugly faces like this woman. Mommy chimed in having these amazing duets with her. I never dared ask mommy if it was a lost love. Maybe she was reminiscing on the serving life had given her in La Isla when she was a little girl. Maybe mommy sang her heart out thinking of her youth and the regrettable choices she made. Whatever the reason my mother sang her heart out in a concert that only the empty living room laid witness to. She never knew or at least never noticed that I’d shut off my music just to hear her. La Lupe would be singing La Gran Tirana and mommy would be in full circle harmonizing her with her own ad-libs to the song. In between shots she would be singing from the top of her lungs “Si Vuelves Tu’ while at that point La Lupe sounder more like Mommy’s back up singer. After a few songs played mommy would get up from the sewing machine and go to the kitchen to refill her cup with beer.

It was in one of those kitchen runs that mom caught me and gave me my first lesson in singing. Of course it was a La Lupe song. The song was “Que Te Pedi”. The story of an woman deeply in love vowing her love and to the extent of just how much she was willing to prove it to her love interest. By this time Mommy was feeling nice and proceeded to explain that to be a  great singer is to listen to the words. That it just wasn’t about having a silky smooth voice or knowing how to extend a note. Those things were just a plus. That to be a great singer you have to embody the emotion of what the words were saying and let yourself go. She told me that a lot of singers with mediocre voices become legends behind pain. Mommy told me that everyone loves a great story and love is never a dull subject. That LOVE is something you either lived through or you desired it and if you sing and feel it there is no one that wouldn’t stop to listen to it. She told me that she remembers the concerts she would go to in hotel lobbies to see La Lupe. How La Lupe was just electric. How the audience no matter how huge it was would become so silent when she was ready to sing one of her heart wrenching boleros. Mommy would tell me that you can hear a pin drop and everyone just listened to this woman sing about the hurt and loss of love. Mommy would go into this whole scenario as she explained to me the performance. My mother whether drinking or not is very animated. I would just look at her and knew right then and there that when La Lupe and her sang it was about love and pain. it was mommy singing about the lack of and the reason for. it was at the moment that I realized that whatever journey she went through with men was not an easy one for her heart.
It was at that moment that I looked at mommy different when her and la Lupe would be singing in the living room. I enjoyed more that what was going on what a concert of pure emotion of letting go and remembering, of healing and of forgetting. It was those songs that Mommy sang when I knew that she was going to be OK.

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