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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."

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

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My mom and dad could see me short but I had all I needed with their approval. I have no approval now … Now I need brother and sister, but it's their life and they have kids on them."

For months, the family debated whether it was time to go see her. But their lack of money to travel, inability to speak Spanish, the fact that Archuleta was pregnant with twins, and the hope that La Presy would recover like her own mother (who had a stroke when she was 71 and survived another 10 years) delayed things. Plus, from a medical standpoint, she was in much better shape in Spain than in the States.

"She was old, indigent, had no Social Security and, if we'd brought her here, receiving Medicare would've taken months," Archuleta said. "She would have died sooner [in the States]."

When the family was finally convinced that someone should go to Granada and be with her, it was too late. La Presy died on December 25, 2011 at Hospital San Rafael in Granada. She was 59.

"It was very tough because, yes, she would've died sooner here, but that's what we did with my grandmother [La Presy's mother]," an emotional Archuleta said. "We didn't send her to a nursing home, we took care of her here. And we could have done that to [La Presy]."

"LA PRESY DIES: THE INDIAN BAILAORA THAT BECAME A GYPSY," read the headline of her obituary at Granada Hoy, the local daily. Patricia Guerrero, her student and first dancer at the Ballet Flamenco Andaluz wrote a tribute to her on her Facebook page. Immediately after her death, her unclaimed body remained at the hospital for two days, with Tony unable to pay for funeral arrangements.

"She was in a situation of extreme poverty," said Martín, from Carmen de las Cuevas. "I had to take over because I saw that no one would or could take charge."

Martín paid about $3,000 Euros for the cremation and funeral, then organized a fundraiser to recover the costs. "Everyone contributed and I was able to recover everything, and more than 200 people showed up for the funeral. The whole flamenco world of Granada embraced her in a last goodbye."

"I'm the director of La Chumbera's school and I have to walk by her house every single day," said Manolete, choking. "I always remember her not just as an artist, but as a person. And I know people like Patricia Guerrero and her mother will also always remember the classes they took with La Presy. There is no discussion whatsoever about her legacy."

If anything, La Presy should've been pleased to know none of her efforts were in vain — in life and death, she earned the respect of her peers. She was more than just a well-respected teacher or a Tejano rarity in the ultra-competitive and sectarian world of flamenco: her teachings are bearing fruits, with Patricia Guerrero and Lara Bello as prime examples (see sidebar on pages 19 and 21).

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