Tony Croatto: Another song in Borinquen

It is evident that in all the countries of Latin America (we suppose that of the entire world) there is another song.


Songs and traditions to say goodbye to the year

It is not some sweet song that sells on the radio, it is not the banal song that is trying to be imposed (although it has gained a lot of ground), it is not some danceable song designed to make us Latinos even lose the rhythm, and, of course, it is not the song that lends itself to losing the notion of who we are even dancing. No.

Fortunately, our countries have a reservoir that, let’s see, is more important than thousands of things that are sold to us as essentials. This explains why nations with relatively few material resources have in this reservoir the infinite flow of their dignity, their belonging and their fight against the relentless alienation that bombards the entertainment empire. In that reserve is the song, the one we are talking about today regarding the intense experience of a people as beloved as the Boricua.

In March it will be 83 years since the birth of a musician who should be analyzed in his career and in his work for what it means for our Caribbean blue zone. That musician is Tony Croatto.

Along with him there is a true constellation of creators in Puerto Rico who make that other song that those interested try not to listen to.

song of the mountain range


From the hand of the great Puerto Rican composer Tite Curet Alonso and his partner Norma Salazar, some of us began to have another reference about Croatto, who even lived in Venezuela for a long time before traveling to Puerto Rico, where the people of Puerto Rico loved him and continue to love him. because he accepted it as one of them despite having been born Croatto in Italy and having traveled a whole journey before reaching San Juan.

At that time, few people in Venezuela knew of his work.

Only record and event producer Orlando Montiel was able to speak in great detail about the Italoborincan, and shed more light on him.

What if. He was not born in Borinquen but in northern Italy, in a town called Attimis. There he saw the first light on March 2, 1940. His real name was Hermes Davice Fastino Croatto Martinis and he felt firsthand the anguish of his parents over the wars that were shaking Europe. His other two siblings, Edelweiss (Tim) and Argentina (Nelly) also suffered the rigors of that Italian time until their parents made the decision to emigrate to South America. That was how, at the age of 9, in 1949 he arrived in Uruguay, to a town paradoxically called La Paz, which was what that family was looking for.

Tony Croatto. I Photo: EFE

Family disagreements led the youngster to go to the streets to work. And he worked hard as a tree feller, as a herder, as a laborer, all as a boy. His reconciliation with his father brought him back home when he was 14 years old. It was 1954. It was then that, at a school graduation ceremony, he joined his brothers to sing. Thus was born a youth group that made history: The TNT (Tim-Nelly-Tony).

From Montevideo they decided to go to Buenos Aires to try their luck in the middle of the era of the Argentine Clan Club commanded by Palito Ortega. Somehow, Los TNT were pioneers, not only in being a fairly youthful group, something that drew attention, but also because Los TNT innovated in music, introducing unprecedented modernity in arrangements, voices and repertoire.

They caused a sensation and it was such that they decided to go to Spain where they were also successful, but they chose to return to Argentina and Tony bought a piece of land in Córdoba while he fell in love and married Raquel Montero. He was already 25 years old. It was not possible to establish himself in Córdoba and also his brother Tim separated from the group to make a permanent life in Buenos Aires.

The TNTs. I Photo: EFE


Los TNT received an invitation from Caracas to appear on the Venevisión television channel. Tim was no longer there, so at Nelly’s insistence, Tony accepted that they introduce themselves as the duo Nelly and Tony. It was 1967, the four hundredth anniversary of Caracas. In Caracas her daughter Mara Croatto Montero was born and in the Venezuelan capital she stayed for a long time.

While in Caracas another offer arrived, from Puerto Rico. In this way he traveled to the Isla del Encanto and Tony Croatto fell in love with Borinquen forever.

The following year, in 1968 Tony had compositions made in Puerto Rico. Agüeybana it was one of them. Also I want to sow breathwhich was recorded by Danny Rivera, the two communicants of an increasing level of consciousness.

Tony and his sister were always singing together until in 1974 when she married a Puerto Rican doctor and they went to the United States. That would be, paradoxically, the definitive takeoff of this beloved troubadour.

Knitting in another Son

Together with Chucho Avellanet he set up a record label. He knew that only then would he be able to record what his conscience dictated to him. The day came when, together with Silverio Pérez, Josy Latorre, Irvin García and his friend Nano Cabrera, they gave life to the important group Haciendo Punto en Otro Son, an indisputable reference in Borincan music. The group also began to make itself felt in the countries of the area.

In Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela, the youth fought to have even one cassette from that group, since the musicality and the lyrics already spoke of a turn in the Puerto Rican song, in the manner of the Nueva Trova de Cuba, of the Chilean movement, of the rich Dominican movement and the Venezuelan movement commanded by Alí Primera and Gloria Martín.

solo work

I live in a land of light

Then would come the need to continue doing other things, as in effect he did. Tony released the album “Vengo a cantarle a la tierra” in 1977. your theme I live in a land of light it became a true popular song from 1979.

She became part of the Artistada Puertorriqueña and Pan del País collectives, giving her singing a social channel.
Almost at the end of the 1990s, he rejoined Haciendo Punto en otro Son to leave the Anthology of the New Song to posterity.

His time on Puerto Rican television was very important because with his programs he showed every corner of the island, with its history and tradition, once again sowing pride in the population for their land and a loving sense of belonging.

The early morning of April 3, 2005 was very hard for Borinquen. Tony paid tribute to life. He was already ill as a result of smoking. A respiratory arrest put an end to his physical transit when he was only 65 years old. The Burning Chapel of the beloved Italian-born troubadour was at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

Tony Croatto was given State Honors. A tearful crowd that sang his songs accompanied him to his eternal resting place in the land of Borinquen.

He left a beautiful family and a town that lovingly adopted him.

Go out to walk

Tony’s adventures, his sense of brotherhood and his militant solidarity are reflected in his record work.

The topic Go out to walkby Roy Brown in the author’s version together with Tony Croatto leaves hope with the edge of a dream that comes true, because it is part of that other song that continues to be so needed.

Tony Croatto: Another song in Borinquen