THE BIG BREAK
Paquita resumed her career as a soloist in 1979. Her real break came when she appeared in the popular Televisa program Hoy Mismo, conducted by Guillermo Ochoa, on Nov. 20, 1986. Since then, she has performed throughout Mexico, as well as in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Spain and the United States.
In 2003, she won three Latin Grammys.
Her life as a public figure has not been free of controversy. Two years ago, she was briefly arrested in the Mexico City airport for charges of tax evasion. She says it was all a ``misunderstanding.''
According to her manager, Francisco Torres Lozada, this grandmother of seven is a simple person who enjoys mingling with regular folk, even when on tour.
''Last year she shared the chiles rellenos a friend had brought her with the waiters at the hotel in Los Angeles. They had recognized her,'' he said.
Her schedule is tough. Torres Lozada says she does around 100 performances annually, sometimes two in one night.
Paquita is philosophical about the pace of her career.
''I will continue singing as long as God gives me voice,'' she said. ``We take life as it comes.''
She does not compose her repertoire, which she estimates at some 300 songs. She sings songs from other performers, she occasionally receives unsolicited compositions and she also works with various composers. The main one is Manuel Eduardo Toscano, who has composed more than 30 songs for Paquita, including eight of the 10 featured in her latest release.
Toscano first heard Paquita on the radio some eight years ago. He was so taken that he wrote a song, put it to music and sent it to her. According to Toscano, a few days later she contacted him and told him that she would record the song he had sent her.
``She told me: `I see you understand what I feel.''
Toscano, who has also composed for Los Tigres del Norte and Vicente Fernández, doesn't mind the ribbing he receives for writing songs that put down his own sex.
''A good friend likes to tell me that for sure everything I write for Paquita is what my own wife tells me,'' he said with a laugh from his home in Huatusco, also in the state of Veracruz.
The secret to the success of the songs, he added, is a little humor.
``My songs speak in strong terms. But they don't just beat up on men. They also make you laugh.''
He looks forward to a long collaboration with Paquita.
``Paquita is a figure that has already established her appeal with the people forever. She is the spokeswoman for humble women. She says what all of them want to shout to our faces.''
Paquita is not a musical innovator, sticking to traditional boleros, rancheras, and even tango-style melodies. Her powerful contralto voice has never received formal training. She has stood on stage with mariachis, bandas norteñas and other instrumental arrangements. She does her own makeup and designs her own dresses.
One of Paquita's trademarks is a refrain she belts out at various pauses during her songs. Many years ago, her second husband, Alfonso Martínez, had disappeared for a couple of days. When he returned and passed by her as she was performing in Casa Paquita, a frustrated Paquita, who was singing about a woman chiding her lover, paused and screamed at Martínez: ''Do you hear me, you useless wretch?'' The refrain stuck and audiences go wild whenever she uses it, which can be several times in the same performance as well as in her recordings.
Hilda García, a 43-year-old multimedia professional who lives in tony Polanco district, is a Paquita diehard. Listening to Paquita ''is like going out with your friends . . . all remembering someone who made us cry,'' she said.
García added that Paquita 'can transcend generations and socioeconomic classes for a simple reason: we women are all the same when it comes to men, who are also all the same, or as the saying goes, `they are all the same and some are worse.' ''
``She says what you always want to say to that man who hurt you, but you cannot say it in those words because they are insults and a well-mannered woman would not do that . . . so that's how you get your revenge.''