Carmen Amaya

Barcelona-born International Flamenco Star

Carmen Amaya was perhaps the first internationally famous flamenco dancer and singer as she starred in various films, most notably alongside Antonio Gades in Los Tarantos.

Carmen Amaya Amaya was born on November 2nd 1918 into a gitano or gypsy family in the long since disappeared Barcelona shanty town of Somorrostro, which is now occupied by a beach of the same name.

She was the daughter of flamenco guitarist José Amaya (El Chino) with whom she made her public debut probably around the age of six.

The young Carmen Amaya first gained major acclaim after she performed at the Barcelona Universal Exhibition of 1929, where she was discovered by the art critic Sebastià Gasch.

She achieved success as part of Raquel Meller's dance company in Paris and in 1936, she made her first trip to the United States, where she stayed for 11 years.

She took part in various Hollywood films and in 1944, she performed at the White House for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

By the late 1940s, Carmen Amaya was one of the biggest stars in the world and on her return to the US in 1955 for a show at Carnegie Hall, she was escorted across New York by a fleet of motorcycles by the President Harry S. Truman.

She returned to Spain in 1958 and in 1963, alongside Antonio Gades, made the acclaimed film Los Tarantos, which was an adaptation of a stage play by Alfredo Maña.

Carmen Amaya died in Begur in El Baix Empordà, at the height of her fame, on November 19th 1963.

The fountain on the Passeig Marítim next to Somorrostro Beach is named after her as are various streets in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Ciudad Real and Begur and there is a statue of her in the Jardins de Joan Brossa on Montjuïc and another in Begur.

The flamenco venue in El Poble Espanyol, El Tablao de Carmen is named after Carmen Amaya, and her legacy lives on in the incredibly lively scene of Flamenco in Barcelona.


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