La Paquera de Jerez
Francisca Méndez Garrido, was born in Calle Cerro Fuerte, Jerez, in 1934, and spent the last half of the twentieth century at the center of flamenco activity. She became a kind of matriarch of the flamenco of Jerez de la Frontera and spent many years performing in the tablaos of Madrid and Seville
She was born in the neighborhood of San Miguel in Jerez, but it was in Madrid were she was to make her name, rubbing shoulders with the top artistes of the time.
In 1971 she was awarded the Niña de los Peines trophy at the Cordoba Nacional Concurso de Cante Flamenco.
She is one of the most majestic singers to come out of Jerez de la Frontera in the last century and she gained the title of Queen of the buleriás. She was like a volcano waiting to erupt, her soleares and bulerias were performed with fire and deep emotion and her tientos and fandangos executed with that indefinable art of the gypsies of Jerez. Although La Paquera was a cuchichi or half gypsy, she possessed that quality that the gypsies seem to be able to inject into their flamenco, a colourful, exciting flow of rhythm and heart rending song.
As a child she would perform the festero styles of Cádiz in the streets of Jerez, which she learnt from artists like her cousin Diego Rubichi.
This was an area which since the earliest recorded days has been a training ground for the many top singers who have evolved from this majestic old town.
During the early period of her career La Paquera’s days were spent singing in the many stalls, abattoirs and forges, which only a few years before had been attended by such legends as Manuel Torres and Don Antonio Chacón.
Although at this time La Paquera was just a teenager, she possessed rhythms and echoes that were centuries old. La Paquera de Jerez was also one of the most popular saeteros during the Easter week in the neighborhood of Santiago in Jerez de la Frontera.
She regularly sang the saeta for the confraternity of Cristo de la Expiracíon, a brotherhood that both her father and grandfather had belonged to.
But strangely enough, La Paquera once said that she preferred to sing the saeta alone in a church rather than in the street during Semana Santa.
In 1957 La Paquera recorded Maldigo tus ojos verdes and by this time she was performing in numerous flamenco companies as well as appearing in several films.
In her long career she has worked with many guitarists of Jerez, including the brothers Manuel and Juan Morao but her favorite accompanist was Parrillita de Jerez.
She stormed through the festival circuit of the sixties and seventies like a whirlwind, her hard emotional husky voice full of gravel and passion.
She also undertook numerous tours with shows like España por Bulerias, Arte Español, Carrusel de Canciones and Ronda de Canciones.
She participated in the show by Japanese dancer Yoko Komatsubara, which took her to Japan and gained her hoards of fans in a country with the biggest flamenco scene outside of Spain.
La Paquera de Jerrez was a symbol of all that is good with in her race, she sung with a source of emotional impact that only seems possible from the gypsies of Jerez de la Frontera.
She died at the age of seventy, in Jerez de la Frontera in 2004 and she has been remembered as one of the giants of female flamenco.
Flamenco de Carlos Saura
Grabaciones historicas El Flamenco es Universal Vol 23
Grandes Cantaores del Flamenco La Paquera.