From the shelf | The story of “Camino de Guanajuato” – El Sol de México

With José Alfredo Jiménez, the town’s poet, it always happens that one learns the stories behind his songs, which beyond the simple anecdote, end up teaching us that the quality of his talent not only lay in his innate musical and linguistic virtuosity, but in his acute sensitivity to face the smallest and most luminous events.

The proof of this is in the book “It’s useless to stop loving you” (Madreditorial, 2023), written by the doctor in Hispanic Literature Paloma Jiménez Gálvez, daughter of José Alfredo. This is a commemorative publication for the 50th anniversary of the death of the famous Guanajuato native, in which the author makes different essays on the work of her father, interspersing poetic study with the telling of anecdotes from the composer’s personal archive.

It is there, among those pages, where one comes to find the terrible and true origin of the song “Camino de Guanajuato”. The author denies, with documentary evidence in hand, that it was a “family claim,” supposedly because the composer had not dedicated any of his songs to his native state or his town.

The reality, says Paloma, was that the first verses of that emblematic song emerged after the sudden death of her brother, Ignacio Jiménez, in 1953, after a gastric ulcer burst. She relates that the tragedy happened in the Anzures neighborhood, during a visit that this brother made to José Alfredo and his wife. Nacho, as they called him, suddenly became ill and was taken to a hospital to which Pemex workers were entitled.

Then the news of the inevitable reached the singer-songwriter’s ears, and so it was that, “knocking with his knuckles on a filthy wall of a cantina near the wake,” José Alfredo began to repeat, over and over again: “It’s worth nothing.” “Life, life is worth nothing.” It was the mythical beginning of this covert “elegy”, which would end up becoming a melancholic hymn shared by all Mexicans in the face of death and suffering.

Later, as the writing of this song was advanced, according to the author, José Alfredo wanted to immortalize the memory of his brother in the following verses: “On the way to Guanajuato, you pass through so many towns/ don’t pass through Salamanca because the memory hurts me there.” , since his brother worked at the Antonio M. Amor refinery, in that town.

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The essay talks about other compositions that the popular poet made in other areas of the republic, such as Veracruz, where his mother was from, or Mazatlán, of which he wrote a corrido that he recorded with the Banda El Recodo.

But, damn yes!… Who knows what happens when one finds out about the true spark that suddenly ignites or ignites the inspiration of our favorite composers. It is as if, upon meeting her, something brought us even closer to them, making us more intimate, becoming a kind of compadres who pat each other on the back, before asking for the stirrup in the corner of a cantina or, as is the In our case, from a shelf in our library.

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