Myrta Silva’s signature song, “Nada,” became an albatross ­after the 1950s. Silva
was expected to perform the song well ­ after her interest in it had waned. In
footage of the early 1970s, Silva forgets the lyr­ics to “Nada” during a tribute to
Rafael Hernández at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. She fi­nally blurts
out, “I forgot the words. What was it, something about getting a divorce? I
think I have sung this so many times my brain ­doesn’t want me to sing it
again.”1 Silva is intentionally deceptive. She had performed forgetting and
changing the lyr­ics to the same song before. In fact, her entire recitative had
been filmed in the Banco Popu­lar 1965 tribute to Hernández. Silva was not
forgetful; she was stating the musical need to move on. But the 1970s did not
allow her to; the pista (canned musical accompaniment) ruled and she was
reduced to lip-­syncing her own songs and changing her aesthetics to suit the
increasingly corporate taste that tele­vi­sion demanded. Vocal per­for­mance on
tele­vi­sion was no longer live, the meat and potatoes of Myrta.
As with any entity, the nothing had an afterlife. While distinct from Silva’s
marvelous play with her figure as a void, Lucecita Benítez, from “Génesis”
on, created a rhizomatic nothing that updated Silva’s version. From queer
masculinity (the auteur of “Génesis”), through Puerto Rico’s “wild transfer-
ence” in the po­liti­cal sign in the 1970s (the artiste of “Soy de una raza pura”),
to hyperfeminine yet very butch normativity (the diva of “Fruta verde”), she
showed remarkable dexterity as an artist reluctantly immersed in celebrity
culture and paradoxically constrained precisely by her innate star quality and
capacity to transmute visually.2 Against any demand on the artist to confess to
salacious truths that would ­settle and confine her voice’s meaning, throughout
her ­ career her reticence  —­  her desire to signify only her persona and keep
her person to herself  —­  stands out. Unwittingly or not, she danced around
celebrity’s strictures and kept the focus on vocal per­for­mance, impelling her
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