Wednesday, November 29

Suripantas: the women who gave body to a voice

I have discovered a word that has fascinated me: quiff. First I was hooked on her music: it starts with the whistle of the that and ends with the click of the foot pe and the tea. He later won me over with his gestural mise-en-scène: that suri suggestive that puts the lips in pouts and that panta that opens and tilts its mouth in an insinuation.

I read the word in a beautiful article by the musicologist Javier Suárez-Pajares and inside my head the tinglao of the boy gender. it was a voice pa show off in a tablao and wrap yourself in a shawl. I started looking for it and… what a story I found! I landed on my face in the middle of the 19th century and saw a playwright with a gray beard, a sharp mustache and a white carnation in his lapel. His name was Eusebio Blasco and he was writing an article for a book entitled The Spanish women painted by the Spanish.

There he told how he created a “comic nonsense” for the variety theater entitled The young Telemachus. At the moment that “punchy” ended up being a smash hit with applause and collections: “The public, who usually have their jokes, began to take a liking to that kind of zarzuela. He repeated his couplets and choirs through streets and squares, and even his most outlandish words”.

And… wow, what a fascinating linguistic history occurred! Eusebio Blasco, when he wrote the work, playing, put a word to the tuntún. It was an empty word without much ambition, but in the first performance, some women gave it substance. And they gave him life! They gave him body and voice, because what they did was sing.

Eusebio Blasco was very surprised: “Among the infinite number of eccentricities that I planted in the work in various moments of good humor, perhaps the greatest was that caricature of the Greek language that I used to make a choir. A chorus that began with these words: Suripanta-the-suripanta… They were words that I myself will not be able to say how or why they occurred to me”.

The fact is that the public was enthusiastic about that twenty first-time singers who had never stepped on a stage. And since “they were the ones who sang the suripanta choir with delicious impudence, the country wanted to give them a name.” They wanted to call them something, but they didn’t know how. They were not artistsneither singersneither couplets. They were newcomers who did wonderfully. “And as all the words of the choir were new, they came to call them suripantasaugmenting the language with a word that has already taken its natural form”.

This is how the word came about: a playwright wrote a voice like crazy, some women sang it and the public turned it into a profession. And then the usual thing happened: since they showed a leg and they weren’t at home embroidering, well bitch that I plant you

The dark morality of that time turned the suripanta into a “low woman, morally despicable”. The poor thing entered the 1925 dictionary in those guises of hers. That was the first meaning of it: the one that made her fall off a donkey; and then, in the second, she said what she really was: “a female chorus girl in a theater”.

Time passed and the suripanta lost popularity. But in the RAE Dictionary it remains intact and still retains the smell of morality with which it was described a century ago. Now, first of all, she appears as a “mean woman”. Wow, that has been updated! she is no longer short; is now… mean. That is still valid. What seems to have grown old is what really was, because in the second meaning they say “woman who acted” [en pasado] “As a chorus girl or a comparsa in the theater”.

Although, fortunately, not everyone is going to get a bad impression of the poor suripantas. Today many people search for the definition of a word on Google and there, thanks to Oxford Languages, it appears as “theater showgirl”.

And who knows if one day they will return to the scene. Now that artists like Rosalía rescue the past so that it shines throughout the world and phenomena like Nathy Peluso begin to sing the violetthe same goes for the suripantas, they end up in the pop or in the drill!