Myrta Silva was born in 1927 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. She was an elemental figure in the history and production of music and singing in Puerto Rico, in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and in the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States.

Along with Luisa Capetillo (1879-1922), Trina Padilla de Sanza (1864-1957), and María Cadilla de Martínez (1884-1951), she was part of a group of women from Arecibo who played a fundamental role in defining Puerto Rico’s musical and political culture in the 20th century. Although she began singing in the theater in her hometown at a very early age, her artistic career really began in New York City in the context of the Puerto Rican migration to the Big Apple in the 1930s.

As a singer, Myrta Silva established a musical style that is still imitated today. She combined her singing skills with playing the maracas, congas, bongos, timpani and claves. From 1939 to 1949, her artistic work included acting in the theater and on the radio, Caribbean and Latin American tours with Rafael Hernández and his Grupo Victoria, and performing with the Moncho Usera and Armando Castro orchestras in what may be considered the golden era of the Club Playa in Escambrón.

Due to her extraordinary singing ability, in 1949 she became the lead female singer in the Cuban group La Sonora Matancera. Her regular appearances on Radio Progreso and in the Havana nightclubs, and her recordings for the Cafamo Records and Seeco Records labels, earned her the title “Queen of the Guaracha.”

One of Myrta Silva’s most enduring legacies was as a songwriter. The year 1941 marked the beginning of her phase as a writer. Her repertory included Qué sabes tú, Cuando vuelvas, Fácil de recordar, En mi soledad, Puerto Rico del alma, Tengo que acostumbrarme, Fin de un amor, Aunque se oponga el mundo and Yo quiero volverme a enamorar. Among the singers who have performed her songs are Ruth Fernández, Evelyn Souffront, Olga Guillot and Daniel Santos.

Silva made a name for herself on the radio, in the movies and on television. In 1956, in New York, she created and produced the television program: Una Hora Contigo, which was also presented to great success to the television audience in Puerto Rico. It was on television that her fame, as “La Gorda de Oro,” grew. She also introduced her alter ego, the character “Mama Chencha.” With the latter, she invented the genre, which still exists today, of imitating the social criticism and show business gossip programs on television. She died on December 2, 1987.

Author: Dr. Noel Allende Goitía
Published: March 12, 2012.

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