The city of Seville has a reputation for being closed, for a society articulated in hermetic circles. The critics give the barrel with the cloistered character of the booths of the Fair, but nobody explains that the members of those booths are paying the fees throughout the year to enjoy a table and a chair (sometimes not even that) perhaps a couple of party days. No one counts the grace that the booth receipts charged to the bank account in May, September or November. They listen, right? So that later they say that Sevillians don’t let (we let) outsiders in and put the security guard in front. Sometimes an exception happens and our fame as closed is blown up, because there are those who act as battering rams. The doors are knocked down by the push of people from outside who end up crossing, never better said, through the arch… of triumph.
José Antonio Fernández Cabrero is from San Felices de Buelna (Cantabria). He has not lost an iota of the Cantabrian accent. He can be heard talking (he doesn’t stop talking!) And the only thing missing is a green landscape, very green, with calm Tudanca cows and a breakfast of sobaos pasiegos. A merchant seaman by profession, he was a surveyor for the company Huarte y Compañía, SA, which one day had to land in Seville, the province where one of his favorite characters was born: the bandit Curro Jiménez, who at that time triumphed in the famous TVE series. One Holy Thursday, just arrived in the city, he decided to fulfill an illusion: to see the Macarena. It was 1978. The Cantabrian went to the Bell, tried to make his way through the noise, and managed to contemplate the Virgin of Hope and the entire microworld that surrounds his path. Over time he introduced himself to the brotherhood with another firm purpose: “I want to be a costalero.” And they explained to him that first he had to be a brother.
He was a costalero with Luis León. And government board official with several older brothers. How do you hear him talk about José Luis de Pablo-Romero! And now he is the older brother. The topographer became senior manager of Mapfre, with an office in the tower that the company has in Triana.
Shyness is short… with siphon. He begins to sing flamenco at a meeting, to light a cigar, to pronounce an impromptu meditation before the Virgin, to intervene in a bullfighting gathering. Gastronomy, bullfighting, flamenco and Macarena are his four passions. Not many days ago he started with a soleá in front of several bullfighters. “What did you think of the soleá, Pepe Luis?” And the son of Socrates de San Bernardo replied: “Very Cantabrian, very Cantabrian”.
It has a lot of whirlwind with an aesthetic, moreover, recognizable from afar. He is as daring to be from Santander and introduce himself to Macarena’s older brother as he is when it comes to dressing. He uses fancy scarves to brighten up his jackets, he is able to wear red shoes like the Pope’s and he wears tailored shirts in which he combines plain yellow with checkered collars and cuffs in other colors..
They say that some of his best decisions as senior manager of Mapfre were to speed up the payment of compensation in two very painful cases. One was in the case of the death of a three-year-old girl due to the fall of a metal fence in a shop in Aljaraque (Huelva). The company paid quickly, and by doing so, it was sending a message to the mother: she was not to blame for the deadly accident. If it had been, the compensation would not have proceeded. With that payment, not only was a money transfer made, but a mother was relieved of guilt. The second case was that of the running over of a young woman – with a high degree of disability – by a truck from the construction site of the mushrooms in the Plaza de la Encarnación. The girl lost her leg, but she didn’t have the will to live. Coincidences of life, the young woman is the daughter of a very macarene poet: Joaquín Caro Romero.
Cabrero has stood for the brotherhood elections twice and has won both times. He wanted to present himself many years before, in the 2009 elections, but the lawyer Joaquín Moeckel was decisive in taking away his desire on that occasion. Cabrero followed the advice and let the opportunity pass. The day of those elections he went to lunch at the Cenachero, perhaps to forget, perhaps to think about the future. Several bottles of wine were uncorked on that table. Imperial, a broth from La Rioja for the exquisite. The bill left the diners shaking and without dogs for a taxi. “How many shopping carts from the MAS on Cuesta del Rosario can I fill with what this food has cost me?” one asked. “But why have you allowed Cabrero to order?” replied the other.
Eight years later, this Cantabrian with a histrionic point finally threw himself into the electoral arena and won against all odds. It was his first victory. Without being an entrepreneur, or a rancher, or having surnames with deep roots in Macarena.
One of her great hobbies is going up to distinguished visitors and friends to the Virgin’s dressing room, where you can see the presents that Macarena has pinned to her saya: a medal with a tiny photo of a deceased person, a gold tricorne from a civil guard… People remain silent, absorbed by the profile of a smile or sorrow, until Cabrero’s voice begins the sentence:
-The Angel of the Lord announced to Mary…
Cabrero is the voice of many acts of descent of the Virgin of Hope, as is the face of social action for many Macarenos. He is clever. Very clever. As a young man he wanted to meet Cantillana and ended up married to a shepherdess. He wanted to see the Macarena and ended up as the older brother. He wanted to organize a bullfighting festival to benefit the brotherhood and he succeeded.
Life is a lit candlestick on Big Brother’s work table and there are underlined books on Loyolian spirituality and others on self-help that he gives away to friends from time to time, some with such suggestive titles as Why do we say yes when we want to say no?. Life is memories of a mini with which he traveled to Seville, a Macario brand bike. Life is remembering when he was detained by the Armed Police at the border for smuggling radio cassettes from Andorra. Fortunately, he ran into an Andalusian agent who gave him quail for dinner with ali-oli and peasant bread. Life is sitting in the armchair number 44 of the bullring in Seville. He is a subscriber who, when invited to a celebration with the right to accompany, he gives his solitary subscription to the person who has invited him so that he has the chair.
Life is having searched for work and presidential ranks for many people who then, oh… It is already known that there are those who have the same memory but little shame. Life is passion for the Macarena choir and for the new choir it has promoted. Life is receiving public congratulations from President Revilla after winning the elections in Macarena. And, of course, life is continually remembering Paco Cossío until the emotion leaves him speechless and starts again with the cadence of a freehand Levante.
He knows that a position like his is periodically exposed to controversy. This Cantabrian likes to hug and kiss his critics. The kisses thing must be the memory of his past times as a costalero. He also likes to pray at the last minute before the Virgin, on the bench in the front row, even when the brotherhood staff has just closed the security curtain that protects the image at night.
–Older brother, should I leave it open a little so you can see it?–No, no. I prefer to guess it. Thank you very much.
It has a very recurring phrase: “This is older than peeing at night.” And another that hides joke: “I’m from Santander, I say things very directly.” And one thinks, deep down, that by saying that he is herding us Sevillians… the same ones that we pay the receipts of the booth of Fair throughout the year.