The party seemed to have died. People started to leave the bar and the bartender turned down the music subtly as if to dismiss the insistent revelers. Although it was past midnight, the taste of “one last drink” still lingered in the atmosphere.
Out of nowhere, there is a fellow to whom everyone wants to say hi, give a hug and pay attention. He seems lucky since he has no lack of invitations, but rather you could tell that it was incentive for a joke or a song. He didn’t have a guitar, but he really didn’t need one, because with a pair of napkin holders and his hands, he got the job done.
My interest in wanting to get to know him grew as his repertoire ranged from American to European without any problem. “Mediterráneo” by Joan Manuel Serrat sounded just as beautiful as “Esta tarde vi llover” by Armando Manzanero, or “Boceto para Esperanza” by Costa Rican Fidel Gamboa.
So I met Carlos Eduardo “Yayo” Martinez, one of the most beloved musicians of Nicoya, known as the music professor, the friend of serenades and the Bohemian singer.
Conversations don’t exist with him. They are simply monologues that intertwine his stories of fiction and reality, making it impossible not to burst out laughing time and again and again. The stories are obviously fed by his Pilsen, which he cannot do without, and which make the stories more fun, or perhaps more made up.
50 Years Ago
If you go back in time, Nicoya was different. Street musicians, bands and marimba groups abounded in the colonial city, so Yayo started playing the saxophone as a child in a neighborhood that would “frighten dogs” in El Guindo, in the center of Nicoya. “That’s what we would say to the street band. You could see that as soon as we started to play, all the neighborhood dogs would run away,” he laughs.
His interest in music was so great that Yayo began studying music theory in a little music school that existed for a while, along with his now-deceased brother, Rodrigo “Pito” Martinez, a renowned trumpet player who was declared a “Beloved Son of Nicoya.”
Later on, in high school, guitar, marimba and percussion became part of his life, relegating other school subjects to the background. “It took me three years to pass third grade. I stayed behind because I escaped to go play music, but eventually I finished high school,” the musician said.
“My dad had a refreshment stand and managed Nene hotel. My dad bought us a marimba and Pito and I started to play and my mom wasn’t left with one slide from the ton of people that went,” said the Nicoyan.
He still blushes when recalling that when he was in fifth grade, he met the woman to whom he has been married for 34 years and with whom he formed a family of four children: his wife, Virginia Arias.
After being married for more than 30 years, Virginia Arias and Yayo Martinez keep the flame burning in their marriage, like those two teenagers who fell in love in high school.
Virginia: “He was playing the guitar, the song “Historia de un Amor” (A Love Story) and “Alfonsina y el Mar” (Alfonsina and the Sea), and I liked seeing him play, but he was like heavy.”
Yayo: “I wasn’t heavy, I just had a build.”
They laugh together.
Since then, Yayo began his exploits, which have always been forgiven by his wife. Such was the case once when Arias paid his registration fee for a song festival in Nicoya, since she had the money to pay, but it backfired.
Yayo: “I won all of the festivals. So once she paid my registration fee and I won about ¢50,000, so I sent her the trophy with my companions and I escaped through the back door.”
The Voice: What did you do with the ¢50,000?
Yayo: – Diay! Party in America!
“Sometimes people ask me how I put up with so much, but I knew him as a Bohemian and I liked him like that. You know how it is with a Bohemian,” adds Viqui, as Yayo calls her affectionately.
Between Classes and SerenadesFor nearly 26 years, Yayo was a music teacher in almost every elementary and high school in Nicoya, so it is normal for many generations to remember him as the music professor. Martinez studied at Ulicori and took some extra music courses.
However, while teaching during the day, his nights were devoted to singing serenades to anyone who asked him to, or composing and writing some of his songs, like “Recuerdos de Mi Infancia” (Memories from My Childhood) or “Musicos de Mi Pueblo” (Musicians from My Town).
The serenades were sometimes so long that Yayo would go for up to five days without showing up at home, where his wife and children thought he had died and even called OIJ, but as the song says, “he wasn’t dead, he was out on the town.”
More than once, his friendliness and cunning came in handy to earn him a party and even invite his friends along.
“There was a popular bar called Los Gallos. I would get there and see everyone outside and see a fellow inside breaking bottles and nobody was getting involved. And I got involved and the fellow pulled out the bottles on me, but I squared my shoulders and said, ‘choose judo or karate,’ and the fellow started to shake and threw away the bottles. He said to me, ‘don’t hit me, calm down. I’m going to calm down now.’ I took him out of there and everyone was happy and, well, a box of beers for Yayin,” related Martinez.
Yayo is a very beloved character in the lowlands. He is a music professor, a National Liberation party member, a Saprissa soccer fan and a Catholic.