Tonight I went to see Alberto Cortez in concert. It was only the second time in my adult life I’ve gone to see a concert for myself (the first one was seeing Astor Piazzola in college). It was amazing. Cortez’ voice is as good as ever, he is an emotive singer and has a very friendly stage presence. The Fox Theater in Redwood City is a cozy venue, and we had great seats (even though I bought the tickets just two weeks in advance, more on this later). Cortez’ sang all my favorite songs (well, except for Gracias a la Vida, but I don’t think he wrote that song) and ended with Cuando un amigo se va, an incredibly sad song about the death of a friend that I’ve loved since I was a child.
And I have loved Alberto Cortez since I was a child. I don’t remember how old I was when I started liking him. 8? 9? Definitely no later than 10. I’m leading to a later date because I think I began to listen to him when my mother bought the radio-cassette player that my aunt still had until her death last year. But when was that? Definitely before I was 10.
My mom had an Alberto Cortez tape and I used to listen to it, loving all the songs but Cuando un amigo se va the best. I can’t remember how many times I’ve cried over that song in the last 30 years. Tonight, however, I cried over Distancia, a song about being far away from the place you were born.
I can’t explain how special it was to listen to the songs of who is probably my favorite singer, and has been for 30 years, live. I hope this is something I’ll be able to repeat one day – but he’s 68 and who knows if he’ll ever come to the Bay Area again. Meanwhile I’m still smiling.

Here is my free translation of Distancia:
Winds, fields and road… distance
So many memories
of childhood, loves and friends… distance,
that are now so far away
Amont the friendly streets… distance
of my old and loved town
where my eyes were opened… distance
where I played as a child.
I’d like my heart to be a guitar
to sing what I feel.
There I lived the happiness… distance
of that first feeling
which has fallen asleep… distance
within the fog of time.
The first love of my life… distance
that didn’t go beyond a try;
my first poem from the soul… distance
which has fallen silent.
I’d like my heart to be a guitar
to sing what I feel.
Where are those friends… distance,
that shared my games?
Who knows where they have gone… distance,
what has happened to them.
I’ll return to my stars… distance
I’ll tell them my secret:
that I still love my land… distance
when I go so far away.
I’d like my heart to be a guitar
to sing what I feel.