La Argentinita

Encarnación López Júlvez, better known as La Argentinita, (Buenos Aires, March 3, 1898 - New York, September 24, 1945) was a Spanish-Argentine flamenco dancer (bailaora), choreographer and singer together with her sister Pilar López Júlvez. La Argentinita was considered the highest expression of this art form during that time.[1]

Encarnación López Júlvez
La Argentinita on the cover of Mundo Gráfico, 1916
Encarnación López Júlvez

(1898-03-03)3 March 1898
Died24 September 1945(1945-09-24) (aged 47)
Cause of deathtumor
Resting placeMadrid, Spain
Other names
  • La Argentinita
  • Flamenco singer
  • Flamenco dancer
  • Choreographer
Years active1969–1991
Partner(s)Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (1927-1934)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • castanets
  • taconeo

Encarnación was the daughter of Spanish immigrants in Argentina, where her father decided to start a fabric business. Whilst living there, two of her siblings died due to an epidemic of scarlet fever. Consequently, she was brought to the north coast of Spain in 1901, where she began to learn Spanish regional dances.[2] Her family developed a great interest in the world of flamenco, which in turn was the artistic motivation to embark on her professional career. When she was only four years old, she had the privilege of learning the art of the flamenco with her instructor Julia Castelao. Her first public performance was at the age of eight at the Teatro-Circo de San Sebastián, located in the Basque Country (Spain). Henceforth, she chose the name La Argentinita in deference to the also famous flamenco dancer Antonia Mercé (La Argentina). After travelling throughout Spain as a child prodigy, she settled in Madrid in order to work at Teatro La Latina, Teatro de la Comedia, Teatro de La Princesa, Teatro Apolo and Teatro Príncipe Alfonso.

Her success led her to tour in Barcelona, Portugal and Paris, and then on Latin America. In the early 1920s she returned to Spain, where she began to work in Madrid before deciding to retire momentarily in 1926. Her return to the show business was accompanied by an artistic renewal that led her to the Generation of ‘27, in which she combined flamenco, tango, bulerías and boleros art. Eventually, she danced to the compositions of Manuel de Falla, Joaquín Turina, Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, and Maurice Ravel.[3] She led in the development of Ballet Español.[4] Adapting pieces to popular tradition, she toured Europe, triumphing in Paris and Berlin and participating in the artistic movements of that time along with Spanish poets such as Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, Edgar Neville or Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, who was an intellectual and a bullfighter, married man and her lover. La Argentinita retired a second time to maintain her clandestine relationship with the bullfighter and Spanish writer. However, the nostalgia for resuming her professional career made her return to the stage with the aid of Sánchez Mejías, who participated actively in the search and employment of interpreters for her subsequent performances. Among her early performances was as the Butterfly in the 1920 premiere of Federico García Lorca's musical play El maleficio de la mariposa.[5]

In 1931, they recorded five gramophone slate records of 25 cm and 78 revolutions per minute (rpm), which were accompanied by Lorca’s piano. The selection of songs was prepared, adapted and titled under the name of Colección de Canciones Populares Españolas by the poet. Among the ten chosen songs were Los cuatro muleros, Zorongo gitano, Anda Jaleo or En el Café de Chinitas.

With the beginning of the Second Spanish Republic she formed her own ballet company called Bailes Españoles de la Argentinita together with her sister Pilar and the poet Federico García Lorca. La Argentinita staged several flamenco theatrical shows, including an adaption of Falla's El Amor Brujo (Love the Magician) in 1933, and Las Calles de Cádiz (The Streets of Cadiz) in 1933 and 1940.[6]

In this new stage of the entertainment industry, she travelled through Spain and Paris, where she was recognized as one of the most important flamenco artists of her time. The company of La Argentinita had flamenco figures of the standing of Juana la Macarrona, La Malena, Fernanda Antúnez, Rafael Ortega and Antonio de Triana, who was her first dancing partner until the 1940s.

At the end of her tour around Spain, she brought her show to America due to the death of the love of her life, the bullfighter Ignacio Sánchez Mejías in 1934 after being gored in the Manzanares bullring. After this tragic event, the artist sought refuge in her work and moved to Buenos Aires to dance at the Teatro Colón, from there she embarked on a long American tour around almost all the continent’s countries. In 1936 she achieved remarkable success in New York. Afterwards, La Argentinita returned to Spain, but was forced to flee the country shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. She travelled through Morocco, France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium and the United States, where she remained in exile in New York. From then until 1945, the year of her death, she developed her career and became one of the biggest stars of international dance, and even participated in cinematographic works. In 1943 she presented the flamenco troupe El Café de Chinitas at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, with her own choreography, texts by Lorca, scenery by Salvador Dalí and the orchestra directed by José Iturbi. In addition, she also performed at the Washington DC Water Gate with her sister Pilar López Júlvez, also recognized as a bailora and choreographer.

On May 28, 1945 she performed her last performance of the orchestral work El Capricho Español at the Metropolitan, which was composed in 1887 by Nikolai Rimski-Kórsakov and based on Spanish melodies. At the end of the event, she had to be admitted to a hospital where she died on September 24 of 1945 due to a tumor located in her abdomen. Nevertheless, she did not want to have it operated inasmuch as she refused to abandon the dance. Her body was repatriated to Spain in December and buried in the Spanish capital. That same year, the company of Bailes Españoles de la Argentinita was dissolved.

Among the honors she received after her death, was a plaque consecrated at the Metropolitan Opera House, positioned among the medals of Alfonso X El Sabio and La Orden de Isabel la Católica intending to reward her merits in the field of culture.

She chose the name La Argentinita in deference to dancer La Argentina.[7]


La Argentinita was the author of two works and participated in another 27 together with different artists.

Own works

  • Duende y figura was a remastering published in Madrid in 1994 by the publishing house Sonifolk. This can be found in two formats of sound recording: cassette or disc.
  • La Argentinita was published in Barcelona in 1958 by the publishing house Compañía del Gramófono Odeón. This work is only found in a single sound recording format, and that is the disc itself.

Participation in other works

  • Consuelo la Alegría is a tango composed by Manuel Font de Anta that was released in Barcelona in 1929 by the publishing house Compañía del Gramófono. In this work La Argentinita appeared as a performer with castanets and orchestral accompaniment.
  • El gaucho was a play based on the dramatic song Cancionera composed by Osmán Pérez Freire and released in Barcelona in 1929 by the publishing house Compañía del Gramófono. In this work La Argentinita performed as part of the orchestral accompaniment.
  • Colección de Canciones Populares Españolas was a set of old popular songs transcribed and harmonized by Federico García Lorca in cooperation with La Argentinita. This collection was released in Barcelona in 1932 by the publishing house Compañía Compañía del Gramófono. It consists of 12 tracks, including titles as renowned as Sevillanas del Siglo XVIII and En el Café de Chinitas.
  • Goyescas was a play that belongs to the dance number 5 Intermezzo composed by Enrique Granados and released in Barcelona in 1941 by the publishing house Compañía del Gramófono Odeón. In this work La Argentinita performed a solo of castanets with orchestra accompaniment.
  • El amor brujo was a play that belongs to the Colección de Danzas Clásicas y Españolas composed by Manuel de Falla in 1944. However, it was published in Madrid in 1996 by the publishing house Sonifolk. In this work La Argentinita provided an orchestral accompaniment with castanets and tapping heels.[8]


Portrait in the Julio Romero de Torres Museum

In the Julio Romero de Torres Museum in Cordoba (Andalusia), there is magnificent portrait dedicated to the flamenco dancer and choreographer Encarnación López Júlvez, better known as La Argentinita. The painting is located in the hall number four, called El origen de lo hondo. This room houses works whose main themes are flamenco and copla. The portrait, painted in 1915 by Julio Romero de Torres, credits a period in which his brushstroke and colour were influenced by the French Impressionist movement. The expression of La Argentinita is displaced to a second plane in order to highlight the relevance of colour, which is the true protagonist of the painting.[9][8]

Compañía de Bailes Españoles. Argentinita y Pilar López Exhibition

This Segovian exhibition honors two great flamenco dancers of the first third of the 20th century, the two sisters Encarnación and Pilar López Júlvez. It is an initiative of their own family, who for the first time took the dresses from the artists' chest to showcase them to the public. This display consists of 17 original costumes that the dancers wore in some of their most representative ballets, highlighting plays such as La cosecha by Enrique Granados or El Café de Chinitas by Federico García Lorca. Moreover, the exhibition is completed with journalistic and artistic documentation, paintings, drawings and posters produced in order to promote the shows and portraits of the time.[10][11]

Mention by various poets

The poet and playwright Manuel Machado referred to the artist as

“Like a feather in the air... it was necessary for life to drag her heart with the weight of true love and her delightful body to know the statutory framework of the line. The secret of the feminine abandonment and the deep human pain to make it rest on the ground and turn her into the performer from the deep flamenco singers and dancers in order to give her a cordial, velvety and pervasive voice without stridency and with a wonderful dramatic expression in the dance and the copla world”.

The poet Jerónimo Gómez dedicated these words to the artist

“La Argentinita knows how to give to our dances a dignified and artistic aspect. Moreover, she unites the finery of the execution with the compatible salts of decorum. Her traditional art, in which her braceo and her placement conserve the purity of the line that never decomposes with monstrous or extravagant twists. It is art of Spanish sill that is expressed in rhythm and melody”.

See also


  1. "La Argentinita (Encarnación López Júlvez) —". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  2. D. E. Pohren, Lives and Legends of Flamenco (Madrid 1964, 1988), pp. 225-227, at 225 (north coast, regional).
  3. Manuel Ríos Vargas, Antilogía de Baile Flamenco (Sevilla c.2001), p. 115 (composers).
  4. Paco Sevilla, Queen of the Gypsies. The life and legend of Carmen Amaya (San Diego 1999), p. 169 (quoting Antonio Triana).
  5. She partnered with Frederico Rey who, as Freddy Wittop, later enjoyed an award-winning career as a theatrical costume designer.
  6. Ríos Vargas, Antilogía de Baile Flamenco (c.2001), pp. 115-116 (shows); 115 (Gitano ancestry).
  7. Fernandez, Corpus Ruiz. "ENCARNACION LOPEZ JULVEZ: "La Argentinita"". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  8. "Federico García Lorca - La Argentinita - Colección De Canciones Populares Españolas". Discogs. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  9. "La Argentinita - Museo de Julio Romero de Torres - Visita Virtual". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  10. "Del baúl de La Argentinita". 21 June 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  11. "La Argentinita (1895-1945)". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
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