I AM NOTHING
In 1969, at the height of the Cold War, the Puerto Rican singer Lucecita
Benítez won the First Festival of Latin Song in the World with her perfor
mance of “Génesis”:
Cuando nada en la tierra quede que tibie el sol
Cuando nadie en la tierra quede que evoque a Dios
Cuando sobre la tierra no haya ya ni dolor
Solo habrá una lumbre y esa será el amor
¡El amor, el amor! ¡Para empezar!
When nothing is left on Earth to feel the warmth of the sun
When no one is left on Earth to invoke God
When not even pain will be felt on Earth
There will only be a flame and that flame will be love
Love, Love! To begin again!
Considering its lugubrious content, it seems odd, more than forty years later,
that the music industry and listening public frantically celebrated “nothing-
ness” in this very melodramatic way. The muscular symphonic orchestra
rushed to keep pace with the singer who had appeared, seemingly, out of no-
where and literally came out of the nowhere that was Puerto Rico to Latin
America, the United States, and the world.
Ironically, the singer’s name means lit tle light, akin to the flame of love that
rises after the apocalypse’s destruction in the last, triumphant bars of the song.
It is not the name her friends and family use to address her: She is Luz, Luz
Esther, or Lucy. Lucecita is a stage name, a diminutive that always has seemed
not quite right for this mercurial singer, and yet also on the mark in Latin
American Spanish as a signifier for the enormous affection she has evoked in
generations of Puerto Ricans. “Lucecita” incorporates the love that the song