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Rediscovering La Presy, San Antonio's gift to flamenco



La Presy in Granada, the "Comanche Indian" that became a "Sacromonte gypsy."

Photo: , License: N/A

At El Poco Loco, mid-to-late 60s. El Curro is on guitar.

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When La Presy's family met with the Current for this story, an undated postcard was found among La Presy's memorabilia.

"Except for my visit home and other few outings, it's been a year to forget," wrote La Presy in the postcard. "There's a lot to confide but things are in limbo for me at this minute. I'm surviving and underweight … There are times I need yous [sic] and mom so much."

Gladys Donovan (La Presy's sister) and Debra Archuleta (niece) believe La Presy brought the postcard herself in either one of her two visits in 1998 and 2000.

"For some reason, she didn't mail it," said Debra. "But she left it here."

Whatever her problem was, La Presy kept on pushing with her classes until her body started to give in.

In 2008, in the middle of one of her classes, she experienced trouble breathing and asked one of her students to call an ambulance. She was admitted to the hospital with "chronic respiratory problems," according to Ángel Horcajadas, one of the doctors who saw her. "She took very little care of herself," said Horcajadas. "She smoked a lot and was in very bad shape. She only went to the doctor when it was too late. The impression that I got is that she lived in her own world and never listened to anyone else."

After that first visit to the hospital in 2008, she needed oxygen at all times. Nevertheless, she seemed in good spirits when Archuleta and Donovan visited her in Granada on separate occasions in 2009. For some reason, La Presy had asked Archuleta to call and she would come get them. "Don't just show up," she had told them. But Archuleta's husband, Bryan, insisted on "giving her a surprise."

When they arrived at La Presy's house, Archuleta froze.

"I just couldn't ring the bell," Archuleta said. "On the one hand I was happy to see her again, but on the other hand I was afraid she'd start yelling at me for showing up."

So she called her mother Gladys in the U.S., and Gladys called La Presy, who let them in. It was a happy encounter, but La Presy soon showed that taking care of herself wasn't one of her priorities.

"She was supposed to have her oxygen tank with her at all times, but never used it," said Archuleta. "She didn't want to be seen with that."

La Presy took Debra and her husband everywhere. Restaurant owners would show their respect for La Presy, but when it was time to come back to resume her classes, La Presy was exhausted.

"She'd say, 'Just give me a couple of hours to rest,'" Archuleta said. "All the walking, coupled with the classes, took everything she had."

In 2010 the doctors found an aneurysm, and she quickly deteriorated.

"She could be discharged in few days … Her problem is only a speech one," Dr. Horcajadas wrote the family on August 3, 2010. "She has a difficult aneurysm to operate on and unfortunately she suffered a vasospasm after surgery, affecting [the] left side. She hasn't motor deficits, so she can walk and take care of herself, but she has problems to communicate (not to understand)."

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