Five Fine Stamps

Postal Service Pays Homage
to Latin American Music Titans

To label as “Latin” the music made by Latin American artists is nothing short than an empty generalization. But as the U.S. Postal Service stamp collection of five such legends shows, it’s clear that the endurance of their work went way beyond the limitations of the label and turned irrelevant even the Spanish and Portuguese languages through which they mostly expressed themselves.
Thus if Carlos Gardel is perhaps the most important Argentine musician of all times, and Celia Cruz the most famous of Cuban performers, “Brazilian bombshell” Carmen Miranda was actually born in Portugal, Tito Puente was a New Yorker and Selena was from Texas.
None of these diminishes their importance and global impact, of course. But the point is that there’s very little in common among them, apart from artistic excellence, and that takes precedence over their place of birth.
At the end of the day, to call them Latin American artists is akin to call The Beatles an English group, or Carlos Santana a Mexican-American guitar virtuoso.
Tango is Argentina’s biggest contribution to the world’s music and Charles Romuald Gardes its most important voice almost 70 years after the plane crash that claimed his life. Tito Puente’s mix of Latin and Caribbean percussive music proved vital to both Manhattan dance halls of the 1940s and to then still new recording industry.
Celia Cruz, already well known in the Cuba of Fulgencio Batista, made the crossover to a global performer aboard a muscular style of dance music aided by a high personal magnetism. Carmen Miranda’s greatest achievement, on the other hand, was to turn elements of the emerging Afro-Brazilian culture into an instantly recognizable iconography.
Of them all, the only one who didn’t have time enough to fulfill her potential was Selena. Her 1995 murder by a jealous manager all but interrupted a process that could have turned the insular Tejano music into a multinational mania. Her youthful charisma and drive had all the elements to fuel the rise of a certified star but it wasn’t to be.
The U.S. stamps, to be issued in March, were designed by San Diego-based Rafael López, but Brazil had already issued a Carmen Miranda’s birth centennial stamp in 2009, designed by José Luiz Benicio da Fonseca.
Not to delve too much into, ahem, the issue, we can always think about who’d grace our increasingly rarer personal letters. Or perhaps, one would be almost afraid of suggesting, the U.S. Postal Office is already imagining new ways to ensure the use of postage will remain relevant in this age of emails and instant messaging.
There, we said it. You may bill us later but we may not be too far from being charged for sending electronic messages. Bill Gates would be a natural candidate for the new series. Actually, what about charging him, the dude from Facebook and the geniuses at Google, for example, for the price of each electronic postage we’d be forced to use on emails?
You know, the proceedings could all be for charity, or something. Too far out? We thought so.

One thought on “Five Fine Stamps

  1. Jorge Keller says:

    Belo trabalho de um grande artista.


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