La Paula

La Paula, a gypsy dancer renown for her bulerias lived in the old flamenco district in Málaga known as El Perchel. Born in 1902 at number 16 Calle de los Negros, La Paula was the daughter of guitarist, Matias Garcia, and dancer, Antonia Fernádez.

At a young age she would dance in the streets where she grew up, and later went on to dance at the Taberna Gitana andthe Peña Juan Breva, as well as most of Málaga’s other flamenco “taverns” (tabernas, in Spanish), and she was also a favourite on the private “juerga” (party) scene in Málaga.

La Paula never missed an opportunity to appear at the August feria in Málaga, where she would perform her graceful and instinctive style of gypsy dance. Her dance was refined and traditional; raising her arms and twisting her wrists in a flowing motion and elegantly dancing from the waist up she would move in the most simple, but effective way.

In her younger days she was also an excellent singer, especially with the “fiestero” styles. Her later years would be spent sitting on her patio, surrounded by pots of geraniums and “dama de noche” night lilies, but in 1973 she was admitted to the hospital San Juan de Dios, where she would spend the last five years of her life.

She wasted her days away in a wheel chair in the psychiatric ward, lifeless, a mere shadow of her dancing days when she was known as the Bailaora gitana malagueña. Her hospital records show that she suffered from senile dementia and died of a heart attack.

Her last years have been preserved in a piece by Ceferino Sánchez Calvo, named Romance a La Paula, a poem dedicated to one of the most outstanding flamenco dance figures that Málaga has ever known.
Living in Andalucia