Ricardo García Blaya

A mi madre - The true author of “A mi madre”

t was always said, erroneously, that the song “A mi madre (Con los amigos)”, famous by Carlos Gardel’s rendition, was written by Pedro Bonifacio Palacios, aka Almafuerte. We also made that mistake when we uploaded the portrayal of the poet that appeared in the book Carlos Gardel y los Autores de Sus Canciones written by Orlando del Greco and published by Héctor Lorenzo Lucci.

The error is not ours but, in any case, it was a mistake by the author of the abovementioned book. However, to say the truth, by that time all the tango researchers and scholars took that information for granted.

We have to take into account that by the time the record “A mi madre” was released for sale there was no institution where music or words could be filed in the record.

It was wrongly attributed because its lyrics and its authors’ names were published in El Alma que Canta, a quite popular magazine that used to include in its pages the lyrics and the names of the creators of the numbers then in vogue. So in it Carlos Gardel and José Razzano, as composers, and Almafuerte, as lyricist, appeared.

But to stick to the truth, there was a man that always said that those lyrics belonged to somebody else, that they were not written by Almafuerte. In fact, the poet Eduardo Moreno held that certainty because he had had a conversation with the journalist Juan José de Soiza Reilly who told him that Palacios himself, in his home of La Plata, had denied being the author.

He was so sure about the mistaken attribution of the issue that there is a note of his published in March 1993 in the magazine Cuadernos de Difusión del Tango which was directed by Salvador Arancio. But he did not go further. He knew nothing about the existence of another person who had signed the poem.

Another one that researched the subject at issue is Ricardo Ostuni. He made a thorough analysis of the poetic characteristics of Palacios in his article Carlos Gardel Almafuerte, la Dupla Que No Fue, and revealed a poem “Últimos ayes de un bardo” signed by S. Alfredo Robles with the same lines as the song “A mi madre”.

It was published in the magazine Club de Tango Nr.11 in October 1994. That magazine was directed by our beloved friend Oscar Himschoot. In it he comes to the conclusion that Almafuerte had never used the sobriquet S. Alfredo Robles because he always used one-word pen names. However, he admits he has not found information about this gentleman.

When we got in touch with a photocopy of the magazine Bric a Brac (mentioned by Ostuni) of November 1896 from the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) with the poem at issue, we were urged to go on researching.

The first conclusion we derived was in connection with the date of its inception because this poem found in a publication of 1896 would be quite prior to the song and that this man Robles would be a person of flesh and blood and not merely a sobriquet.

Today, in 2010, by checking in the Internet some Venezuelan pages of literature the mystery was disclosed. So we got to know that the full name of the author was Sebastián Alfredo Robles, born in Venezuela and that he was journalist, writer, poet, director and co-founder of the periodical La Fraternidad Literaria in 1885.

This was ratified by another discovery we made soon after; in the National Library of Spain we found the same poem and signature in a copy of the “La España Moderna” magazine, a publication of 1893. That is to say, three years before the one published in Bric a Brac.

Recently, I went to a meeting at the Embassy of Spain where Ostuni presented a book. We had a chat and we talked about the issue. He had also come to the same conclusions.

Finally, the certainty of Eduardo Moreno, the speculations by Ricardo Ostuni and our curiosity reached a happy but incomplete ending. We found the true author of “A mi madre” and its nationality but we still have ahead the challenge of knowing more about the life and career of Sebastián Alfredo Robles. We shall go on tracking him down.