by Jason Martinez
Today is the day before Thanksgiving, 2012. I feel elated and joyful upon pondering what the real meaning of this holiday represents, yet I can't escape a sense of humility bordering on sadness, which is even now setting in. I do wish to make it known however, that this sadness is a positive thing, because it springs from a source of everlasting truth; I am blessed beyond all that is reasonable or even fathomable.
Whatever happens from this moment until the end, I can say with a true sense of amazement that I have found that which has captured my imagination and have been honored, probably even commissioned, to learn it, to live it, and to impart it. Flamenco is something that exists in a different hemisphere; something which comes to our side of the world in its pure form, not easily digested but alluring all the same. Why on earth should I be in Tucson, AZ teaching, studying, and indulging in an art form so far removed from its birthplace? The answer is two-fold: grace and mercy. I say "grace" because I've done nothing to deserve access to such an abundant source of soul sustenance. I say "mercy" because what I have, in fact, earned is a fool's inheritance, a fate I've been spared.
It's incredibly easy to complain as an artist and as a flamenco. It makes one feel somehow justified and unique, as though we've undertaken some righteous cause that no one understands or appreciates. We can start to feel like unrecognized geniuses, so full of art that our very existence is a work in of itself, colored and textured with irony, pain, and profound complexity. Why no recognition? Why so much work and no compensation? These are things I'm ashamed to say have run through my mind, and I know I'm not alone.
Perhaps it's to our benefit to take a few steps back, wipe away the tears, and see clearly what we have before us. We have a connection to the rest of the world that no one could have predicted just decades ago. We are able to experience the art and the artists right before our faces in our own hometowns. We have many opportunities to learn from them and to transplant flamenco here, so that it becomes part of our culture and part of us. With love and cultivation, this art takes root in our soil and flourishes. Anything else we gain in addition to these things is the proverbial cherry on the sundae.
Some of us will develop strong skills in this. Some will gain fame and maybe a little money to go with it, and in rare cases, a career. Some will earn artistic respect and acclaim from their peers. Some will go through their flamenco journeys with very little growth and a good deal of frustration. Each one of them should be full of gratitude. This is my plea to the reader, and a reminder to myself. We can't take joy in this endeavor without a grateful heart and a renewed mind. Recognize your blessings and use this awareness to feed your art, your soul, and each other. Anything outside this is a useless waste of time. Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.