By: Héctor Valor Fernández correspondent from Caracas, Venezuela
Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso was born in the town of Guayama, Puerto Rico on February 12, 1926, the son of an orchestra musician and a seamstress. He was just two years old when his parents separated; his mother and sister moved to Barrio Obrero, Santurce, with his grandmother, who was responsible for his upbringing. He also received his primary and secondary education.
Life in the neighborhood and his experiences there influenced his music. He studied music theory and solfeggio with professor Jorge Rubián, at the same time as growing up with other Latin music great legends such as Rafael Cortijo, Ismael Rivera, and Daniel Santos.
After graduating from high school, he began studying journalism and sociology at the University of Puerto Rico. For more than 20 he worked for the U.S. Postal Service and, at the same time, he was composing songs. In 1960 he moved to New York City, where he worked for the newspaper “La Prensa” as a sports journalist.
In 1965, Alonso met percussionist and salsa singer Joe Quijano, who committed one of his compositions entitled “Efectivamente” to record for the first time. In 1968 and 1969 he composed songs expressly for La Lupe such as “Carcajada final”, “Puro teatro”, and “La Tirana”.
In the early 1970s, “Tite” got into the salsa movement led by the label of Fania Records in which he became the composer of the greatest classics of the genre.
Alonso composed more than two thousand songs, such as “Anacaona”, “Periódico de ayer”, “Lamento de Concepción”, “Las Caras lindas”, “Juan Albañil”, “Mi triste problema”, “Tiemblas”, “Plantación Adentro”, “De todas maneras rosas”, “Marejada feliz”, among many others.
Alonso’s compositions were interpreted by the greatest singers and groups in the Latin American music industry: Joe Quijano, Cheo Feliciano, Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Willie Colón, Tito Rodríguez, Héctor Lavoe, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Ismael Miranda, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentin, Marvin Santiago, Justo Betancourt, Willie Rosario, Pete “Conde” Rodríguez, Andy Montañez, Rafael Cortijo, Tommy Olivencia, Frankie Ruiz, Rubén Blades, among others. Tite” Curet Alonso is considered the most important composer of salsa music in his country and Latin America of the 20th century.
Catalino Curet Alonso left a son, Eduardo, and a daughter, Ilda, as well as several grandchildren. He maintained a fruitful loving relationship with Norma Salazar, an excellent Puerto Rican exponent dedicated to working with children, literary work, craftsmanship, and dance with traditional Puerto Rican rhythms.
She knew quite a lot about Tite’s efforts because she knew full well that beneath that face, that unbreakable smile, and that ever-present hat, there was a man permeated by great emotions, a loving discourse with a political edge, and she kept vigil with a man responsible for his work.
Catalino Curet Alonso died in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., on August 5, 2003, at the age of 77, as a consequence of respiratory involvement which caused him a heart attack.
His remains rest in the Santa María Magdalena cementery of La Perla in Viejo San Juan. “La Perla, where patriots are buried”. His tomb is close to those of Rafael Hernández, Pedro Flores, and Daniel Santos.