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Articles cover Trio Matamoros Design: Mayo Bous

Trio Matamoros, the son for Colombia¹.

The first international tour of the Matamoros Trio (Miguel Matamoros, Rafael Cueto and Siro Rodriguez) took them to Mexico where, over the years, they left a traceable influence, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula, which welcomed them to repeat their Cuban success. They were already on their way to becoming legends.

The basis of the trio's triumphs, founded on May 8, 1925, was simple: to an excellent artistic interpretation they joined the picaresque of the subject matter and the simplicity of the lyrics that could reach mass audiences. It is necessary to add the fact that they had the support in the diffusion of the powerful record company RCA Victor, which found in the santiagueros a gold mine, and welcomed them as the first stars of the Afro-Caribbean third world.

Not even two years old, the Matamoros Trio was already famous throughout the Caribbean. Their first recordings, made in Camden, New Jersey, between May 28 and 31, 1928, were among the best sellers, and their performances sold out as soon as they were announced.

But they were still the santiagueros who gave up driving vehicles, shoeing horses, and neatly annotating memorials. They returned to the recording studios for the second time at the end of 1928 and in the middle of 1929, in Cuba. In 1930 they were back in New York where, in addition to recording, they were featured in the film International mosaicsin which they performed Promise and Mom, they are from the hill.

Their popularity in the Caribbean took them to the Dominican Republic in August 1930 where, a few days after starting their presentations, they endured the San Zenón hurricane, which forced them to interrupt their performances. The difficulties of communication with Cuba caused many to believe that Miguel, Cueto and Siro had perished alongside thousands of Dominicans who were victims of nature. Matamoros, upon his return to the Island and to respond to the predictions of the local witchdoctors, composed the bolero son The Trio and the Cyclone.


Uncertain Spiritists

that many are out there,

stubbornly stubbornly

that those of the trio had died.

Every time I remember the cyclone

my heart is sick.

The story ends here

of such a tremendous cyclone.

The dead go to glory

and the living to dance the son.


After the hurricane, they traveled to Haiti and, without the necessary documentation, they tried to reach Venezuela, where they had to wait on board a boat for more than a month. Broadcasters, theaters, cinemas, nightclubs and private parties followed one another during those years, once they returned to Cuba. From there they went to Puerto Rico where they were assured of success.

In September 1932, aboard the steamship Reina del Pacífico, they began their trip to Europe. Theaters in Barcelona, Santander, Galicia and La Coruña, among others, welcomed them on their stages, as well as the most renowned theaters of the republican capital of the time. From Spain they went on to the French capital, Paris, where they performed for two months. The next stop was the Lisbon of Pessoa's deep nostalgia and, again, the north of Spain, which saw them perform for the last time in Santiago de Compostela. The minstrels brought back as much applause, francs and pesetas as they could.

The chauffeur, the blacksmith and the notary became idols of mestizos, Indians, blacks and whites who were dawning to the miracle of the radio in our Latin America. Only three years after their first recording, they were already recognized in the Afro-Caribbean world, in the Andean zones and had the luxury of going with their music to Europe between the wars.

After the successful European tour, the Matamoros Trio returned to Cuba, in whose main cities they performed on a permanent basis, with equal success and acclaim until, at the end of 1933, they again boarded a sea transport that brought them to Central and South America.

In a very curious way, they focused their visit to Panama and Venezuela, in cities with a majority black population. Colon, in the isthmus, and Puerto Cabello, in Venezuela, were the cities of greatest attraction.

From Puerto Cabello to Caracas they were only separated by a few towns. In the Bolivarian capital They performed at the Ayacucho Theater, and at the Victoria Theater in the town of the same name; they toured Valencia and Barquisimeto, among others. Then They toured the islands of Aruba and Curaçao. Again in Venezuela they performed in Maracaibo, Lagunillas, Cabimas and San Cristóbal and from there they crossed the border with Colombia during the last days of 1933. In the border city of Cúcuta the Trio Matamoros performed at the Guzmán Berti theater.

From Cúcuta and on a route that included Pamplona, Málaga and a stay in cold Tunja, the members of the Matamoros Trio toured Colombia's populated areas.

While touring the Cundinamarca-Boyacá plateau, the Bogotá newspapers announced the presence of the sensational Trio Matamoros at the Faenza Theater².The double bill included the presentation of the comedy from 20th Century Fox Studios, Husband and wife. The presentations in the capital were a remarkable success. The debut was on January 5 of that year and, a few days later, in the company of Carlos Julio Ramirez, Jorge Añez and the Orquesta Suramericana, they made a special night in a variety of Colombian-Cuban musical exchange.

Invited by the national singer, the three Cubans who, at that point of the trip, already had a diploma as mule riders, visited the salt cathedral in Zipaquira, the Salto de Tequendama and, among the bohemian capital, its booksellers and its writers, its literary experts and its families of noble ancestry, they discovered the works of Jose Maria Vargas Vila, the greatest pamphleteer. Cueto, interviewed many years later by the researcher César Pagano, would say that he learned his first and fundamental lessons of materialism, rather than with Carlos Marx, with the texts of Vargas Vila.

Some of the main Colombian Andean rhythms were known and in 1934, in New York, they took bambuco to the studios. The trapichewith music by Emilio Murillo Chapul and lyrics by Ismael Enrique Arciniegas, a song that was reminiscent of the paisas the good old days of an Antioquia that never existed:

Coming down the mountain

a song can be heard in the evening

Coming down the mountain

a song can be heard in the evening.

Sweet cane mouth,

who could kiss you?

Sweet cane mouth,

who could kiss you?

Who could kiss you?

The mill is grinding,

smoke is seen rising,

the sorrows I am feeling,

Who could tell?

(Murillo & Arciniegas, 1928)


And although Colombia was beginning to live difficult times, the times in Cuba were tougher at the height of the machadist tyranny which was, historians say, one of the worst of all times. That was the most reasonable explanation to understand why these extraordinary musicians arrived, unhurriedly and on muleback, to Colombia.

At the end of their season in Bogotá, on January 16, 1934, the three santiagueros took the road from the capital to the town of Girardot. They went on to Ibagué, continued to Armenia, were then in Cali, Tuluá received them and even reached Buga and Palmira.

Following the road of the arrierías they arrived in Pereira, went up to the Catholic Manizales and from there, looking for the Cauca River basin, they went down to La Pintada, at that time the jurisdiction of Valparaíso. Scarce, if not null, is the memory that these localities kept around the presence in their theaters of the idols of the time.

"The culture of a people is measured by the number of its readers," he said daily to his audience. El Colombiano the main morning newspaper of Colombia's second largest city, still when Medellín had more paddocks and pasture for cattle than problems and only three days before the arrival of the Matamoros Trio.

Starting on Thursday, February 22 and for five consecutive days, the ambassadors of Cuban music, the interpreters of tropical soul, three voices and three guitars, Trio Matamoros, will perform at the Circo España. On their arrival, on the eve of their presentation and to announce their presence in the city, they published the following message:

"Greetings from the ambassadors of Cuban music to Colombia. Pilgrims of the divine autochthonous art, we would like to have the continuous accent of the Tequendama to greet Colombia, whose inspiring rhythm of its music is the most original of America. To Colombia, whose democracy is the pride of civilized nations, to the cradle of the glory of the liberator Bolivar; to the land of Santander, the organizer of victories; to the homeland of Ricaurte, who knew how to immolate himself before the altar of fraternity, to the nation of Cordoba, liberator and avenger at the pace of victors and of Mosquera, whose effort and initiative for the freedom of Cuba are engraved in the hearts of his children. Matamoros Trio"

As can be seen, the place the Cubans wanted to occupy was quite common, already worn out by thousands of kilometers that, even today, are still too many on the precarious roads for the soul and body of any traveler.

On Thursday, February 22, the trio made its debut in Medellín. The stage was the now disappeared Circo Teatro España, a venue that had been inaugurated in June 1927 as a bullring but was especially dedicated to the projection of feature films. It was located on what is now Maracaibo Street, at the intersection with Girardot, in the vicinity of what is known as the Parque del Periodista.

Barely 17 months after Trio Matamoros' transit, Circo España became once again one of the most important stages of Latin music. The best dressed tango singer in history came: Carlos Gardel, who performed three times before the enthusiastic audience on June 11, 12 and 13, 1935. The story, not because it is well known, ended with the death of El Zorzal Criollo on the runway of the Las Playas aerodrome, today Olaya Herrera airport, in a plane crash on the ground, a thousand times told but never clarified.

It serves, however, to illustrate the fact that Medellín in 1935 did not even have road communication with the capital of the Republic, but it did have an air terminal that could only be used by an industrial and prosperous elite, and by the stars that this world could bring to the city, one of whom was El Morocho de Abasto.

Circo España is today a distant memory, barely visible in a few photographic archives or in the written reviews that survive time. The night of the Cubans' presentation was followed by a brief season in which they alternated their songs with the projection of American films and whose seats had two categories, the more expensive ones, where the spectators could see and read the tapes upright, and the cheaper ones, where the film was seen and read upside down. The effort of the latter should not have been greater because the illiteracy rates were so high that the function, rather than being understood, was intuited.

From Medellín, like any traveler of the time, they left by train, with presentations in small towns along the railroad, among them Cisneros, to Puerto Berrío where they continued, on the back of the Grande de la Magdalena River, to Barrancabermeja, Cartagena and Barranquilla. On the Colombian Caribbean coast the trio felt at home.

Already an octogenarian, Cueto recalled the massive attendance at the Variedades theater in Cartagena (today the Cartagena theater, on Paseo de los Mártires) where they performed, and a fleeting visit to the then recently inaugurated local aqueduct, at the time one of the most modern in Latin America.

Since 1929, records of imports of 78 r.p.m. discs in Barranquilla indicate that Mom, they are from the hill and He who sows his corn were already playing on gramophones. In Medellín and in that decade, Félix de Bedout and David Arango, representatives of the companies RCA Victor and Columbia, respectively, opened their stores to sell gramophones, vitro recorders and American music records. fox trots, ragtimes and one stepsMexican, Spanish, Argentinean, Cuban and Colombian music by Carlos Vieco, Camacho y Cano, the Lira Antioqueña, Gonzalo Vidal and many others. The first records of Trio Matamoros arrived at the Bedout's warehouse.

That is why when the Cuban soneros made their debut in Barranquilla, on March 15, at the Colombia Theater, alternating with the film Mad genius (1931), with John Barrymore (one of the first sound films to arrive in the country), the audience chanted his songs. 

Journalist and presenter Marco T. Barros Ariza recalled that during the performances of the Matamoros Trio he asked the audience to be quiet so that the guitars could be heard, since the amplification was very rudimentary. He also said that during the performance on Sunday, March 18, there was an outbreak of fire in the theater that caused a collective panic and resulted in the death of a minor and the injury of thirty people.

On March 26, after two weeks and about 12 presentations, they made their last show in Colombia at La Voz de Barranquilla, and on March 28, Miguel and Siro, aboard a ship, left these lands. Rafael Cueto stayed a few more days visiting some of his relatives, who were also traveling through these lands.

They never came back, but from Colombia the group took with them the literature of the pamphleteer José María Vargas Vila and a compendium of songs of the national folklore that, in a few years, would become an integral part of their songbook. The most important thing is that they made us Colombians know where the singers are from with their fascinating and very gallant trovas...


¹ Pby Sergio Santana A. and Octavio Gómez V. (taken from the book "Medellín tiene su salsa" Colección Bicentenario de Antioquia - Fondo Editorial EIA, 2014).

²  The Faenza, located in the Las Nieves neighborhood, is the oldest movie theater in the capital, founded in April 1924. The theater also presented operas, operettas and different musical groups. Declared a national monument in 1975, it still ended up as a movie theater with low class and pornographic films. In recent years it was acquired by the Central University and restored with all of its art nouveau.

³  El Colombiano, 1934


Books consulted

- Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal. Discographic Encyclopedia of Cuban Music 1925 - 1960. Available on the website:

- Hernandez, Zenovio. Miguel Matamoros, a challenge to time. Roque Books. Las Vegas, USA. 2022.

- Rodríguez, Ezequiel. Trio Matamoros. Thirty-five years of Cuban popular music.. Editorial Arte y Cultura. Havana. 1985.

- El Colombiano newspaper archives

Sergio Santana Archbold Civil engineer and music researcher born in San Andrés-Isla and resident in Medellín. Author of the books What is salsa? Looking for the melody (1992), Yo Rubén Blades, confessions of a neighborhood rapporteur (1997), Héctor Lavoe, the voice of the neighborhood (2003, 2018) and The unforgettable Tito Rodríguez (2003, 2015), among others. He is also the author of the books Medellín has his salsa (2015) in co-authorship with Octavio Gómez, and de Mi salsa has sandunga (2014). Co-author and coordinator of the books Lucho Bermúdez, cumbias, porros y Viajes (2012) and Benny Moré sin frontiers (2013). Producer of Santo Bassilón Editions. More posts

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