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Sparky the Arpa Llanera

Saturday, March 4, 2006

A few hours ago I took posession of my own llanero harp, and I love it! I don´t ordinarily name my harps, but I will call this one Sparky.

The name comes from my reading of a novel which I finished on the same day, less than an hour ago. It is Cantaclaro, by the famous Venezuelan author Romulo Gallegos. This is a great story, matching or exceeding his more famous novel, Dona Barbara. This should be a BBC mini-series.

I can´t resist telling some of the story. Florentino is a traveling singer whose rambles are interrupted, as you might imagine, by a love interest at a ranch. The girl is Rosangela. She thinks the man she lives with is her father, but he knows he is not. The mother, his wife, died when the girl was born. To escape the pain, the idealistic Payara left for 18 years, returning from the wars disillusioned and hopeless. The girl revives him with her pure love, but this mixes with a mutual attraction between the girl and the older man. Of course, this cannot be.

Enter Florentino, a vagabond musician who has made a career of amorous conquests. When the girl discovers the truth about the man she called father, she begs Florentino to take her away. He does, but he treats her with unprecedented respect and takes her to his own mother where she finds protection. There, a new love triangle emerges involving Florentino and his stay-at-home brother, Luis.

There is more, about official corruption, human warmth and kindness, revolutionary politics, visionary prophets, and the rich folkways of the plains (llanos, or llanura).

If you think about it, you can probably figure out how it ends. The legend is that Florentino, the useless vagabond, was taken away by the devil. A subtle reading of the story is much more revealing.

So, how does this clarify my naming the new harp Sparky?

Well, Centella, or "spark", is the nickname given to Rosangela, not by the famous poet Florentino but instead by the stay-at-home bachelor brother, Luis, so practical, so lacking in poetry and romance. Luis´s poem, the first ever, memorializes Rosangela´s arrival just as a violent thunderstorm initiates the rainy season. She was the spark. The legendary Florentino was bested.

John Lozier

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