Spotlight On: A Series on Culture & The Arts

“Spotlight On” is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on all things cultural & artistic in Xela and Guatemala. The topic for July 2010 is “Paco Perez: The Man Behind the Moon.  By Elena Alvarado.

If you are able to pronounce Parque Paco Perez with out getting tripped up, then congratulations on your tongue acrobatics.  But, the very little park over by Puente Chocoyos honors a man whose contributions to Quetzaltenango’s popular culture are immense.

Paco Perez was a musician and composer, and was best known for composing “Luna de Xelajú,” the official song of Quetzaltenango played and sung at everything from soccer matches to weddings to municipal events.

Born Francisco Perez Munoz to Jose Perez and Luz Munoz on April 25th, 1917, Perez became part of a musical and artistic family that was known locally. Growing up in Huehuetenango, the family moved to Xela when Perez was six years old so that they could be closer to the Municipal Theater where Perez debuted as an actor at age six.

His first solo show came at the age of 18 when Paco Perez sang a number of solos to an adoring audience.

Later, Paco would form the Trio Quetzalteco with two other local singers: Manolo Rosales and Jose Alvarez.  This trio performed at the municipal theater, but was also making a run on the radio station TGQ which aired a number of their concerts and brought them a wider national fame.

Although Perez was a quite prolific composer, he is best known for the 1944 composition of “Luna de Xelajú”, a song heard just about everywhere here in Xela.

Legend has it that the song was inspired by Eugenia Cohen, a woman that Perez was madly in love with. The Perez-Cohen union was shot down by the Cohen family which did not approve of Paco. Fortunately for all of Xela, Perez’s response was to write what would become Xela’s most famous song—declaring that even if Eugenia Cohen (called “una morena” in the song) abandoned him that the moon over Xela would never do so.  Complete lyrics to the song can be found online.

Tragically, Perez died at the age of 34, when the plane he was riding in crashed in El Peten, en route to a concert. Parque Paco Perez, among other monuments was named to honor one of Guatemala’s greatest artistic prodigies and “Luna de Xelajú” was made the departmental hymn.

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