My feet had barely hit the ground in Jerez de la Frontera when we started seeing posters and hearing people talk about the benefit concert that would be held that night for La Chiqui — a well known Flamenco dancer who needs to travel to the U.S. for treatment of an illness that I never did find out.  My Flamenco-dancer friend grinned and said “Tonight you’re going to see REAL Flamenco!”

We tossed our bags in the hotel and took off walking, not sure if we’d be able to get tickets on such short notice.  We got lucky, and happily paid  our 25 Euros (steep money for many Spaniards these days) and walked into an open soccer field where a stage had been set up, and there were no chairs to sit on — so we’d be standing.  Not unusual for a small Spanish concert.

As the stadium filled Salli whispered “Looks like there are only 2 foreigners here — that would be you and me!”  Sure enough, I realized that we were surrounded by every shape, size, age, and flavor of Gypsy.  And when you’re looking for authentic Flamenco, that’s exactly where you want to be. There were spectacularly beautiful babies, mamas, and grandmas, some dressed to the gills, others…  not.  Many of the men had long black silky hair and were dressed in what I’d consider kind of Flamenco clothes – black pants, black boots, white shirt, and black vests.

The concert started right on the dot of 8pm, and a steady stream of incredible Flamenco artists took the stage to pay their tribute to La Chiqui — and to mention that they were a cousin, uncle, sister, or some other relation, and to mention the word “family” about a hundred times.  The crowd got bigger and bigger and we were pressed on all sides by people who had grown up with this music, clapping in a precise pattern called “las palmas” that they pick up from childhood.

Now I can really and truly say I’ve not just seen authentic Flamenco — I’ve been in the company of a good part of the Flamenco family, if only by sheer luck.