In 2017 it will be the 40th anniversary since the decease of the first woman who drove a car and got a driver’s license
María Calvo Nodarse, whose real name was María Constancia Caraza Valdés, but was better known as La Macorina, was born in Guanajay, then Pinar del Río province in 1892, and when she was 15 she ran away from her family and moved to Havana with her boyfriend. She retold this years later in an interview:
“Spring in the country is intoxicating. I was 15 years old and felt it in my skin, in my eyes, in my soul. The spring pushed me to run away from home with a man who promised to love me forever. My parents tried to make me return, but I stayed in Havana with my first and only love, the one I will remember until my death. He could barely guarantee our economic security. One day a woman said she knew how we could live luxuriously. I accepted and with that tremendous error I started a new stage of my life…”
According to some reports, La Macorina had an interesting personality and a sympathy which aroused the admiration of her acquaintances.
A woman of great beauty, mixed race between Chinese and black, although the photo on her driver’s license she shows a white woman, with big dark eyes. Her boldness, her perennial elegance, her attractive eyes drew all eyes on her whenever she went by.
To this was added her special personality and charm, enjoyed by those who made up the elite of Havana’s society at that time.
Some witnesses said that, besides being beautiful, María was very kind, very refined and correctly educated, which enabled her to become a selective prostitute. This way, she started her way toward opulence; she frequented powerful and rich men, dedicated to the world of politics and business.
According to reports from those years, she was a lover of General José Miguel Gómez –who became President of the Republic- and when he was imprisoned for conspiracy, she didn’t give him up and visited him in jail, and in her way, she worked strenuously for his release.
La Macorina was active as an escort lady until 1934, and the harvest of her trade was nothing to be despised. She lived in four luxurious mansions in Havana.
She owned valuable race horses, expensive furs and a considerable amount of high value jewels, it was reported. She never abandoned her passion for cars and had nine, mostly of European brands, her favorite ones.
Some people assure that her spending rate per month amounted to two thousand pesos, which in the 1920’s was quite a fortune, not to mention the money sent to her big family.
She drove her white Hispano-Suiza around the streets of Havana at 30 km/h, while she listening the music of the time at full blast.
Rumor has it that her nickname Macorina, which she hated, had its origin one night when she strolled through the famous Acera del Louvre, popular for the cream of society, and one of those rich young men, exclaimed from his table watching her pass by: There goes “La Macorina!”. Someone, the following day, perhaps the same man, free from his hangover, clarified that he meant La Fornarina, nickname given to the famous Spanish artist María Consuelo Bello by the people of Havana in those days.
This Cuban woman was an active defender of women’s rights; she is still remembered leading a colorful convoy of cars loaded with beautiful women.
She must have left an indelible memory in the mind of painter Cundo Bermúdez, who portrayed her many years later on board that car.
However, the popular Macorina was honored in a popular theme by Abelardo Barroso and the Sensación orchestra, in addition to being immortalized in the famous charangas de Bejucal.
Her twilight began in 1934. The economic situation of the country was not so good, but maybe the fact that la Macorina was already 42 years old was the main reason. Her old friends started to make up excuses every time she called for help, and thus she began selling all her belongings, jewels, houses and the cars. Finally she ended up in the most absolute poverty, living in a rented room in Havana.
In 1958, when her days of glory were already gone, María agreed to an interview for the Bohemia magazine, in which she proudly told the reporter: “More than a dozen men were at my feet, full of money, and begging for love.”
She died in Havana on June 15, 1977, but almost 40 years after her decease, once in a while the radio, in records, or in any TV program dedicated to the promotion of the Cuban traditional music, we can hear the refrain of that song: “ponme la mano aquí Macorina…”
Translated by ESTI