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Daniel_Santos_(singer)Daniel San­tos (Feb­ru­ary 5, 1916 – Novem­ber 27, 1992) was a singer and com­pos­er of boleros, and an over­all per­former of mul­ti­ple Caribbean music gen­res, includ­ing guaracha, ple­na and rum­ba. Over the course of his career he adopt­ed sev­er­al names cre­at­ed by the pub­lic and became known as “El Jefe” and “El Inqui­eto Anacobero”.

Early years

San­tos was born and raised with his three sis­ters, Sara, Rosa Lydia and Luz Amer­i­ca in Trastalleres, a poor sec­tion of San­turce, Puer­to Rico. He attend­ed Las Palmi­tas Ele­men­tary School. Although he was doing well in school his father Rosendo took him out of school when he was in the fourth grade and forced him to shine shoes because of his fam­i­ly’s poverty.

In 1924, his fam­i­ly moved to New York City look­ing for a bet­ter way of life. When his par­ents, Rosendo and Maria enrolled him in school, he had to start from the first grade again because he did not know enough Eng­lish. San­tos joined his high school’s choir, but he dropped out of high school in his sec­ond year and moved out of his par­ents’ apart­ment. When he was fif­teen years old he began look­ing for work in Manhattan.

San­tos moved into a small apart­ment, where, one day, he start­ed to sing “Te Quiero, Dijiste” (You said ‘I Love You’). A mem­ber of the Trio Liri­co was pass­ing by and heard him sing, he then knocked on San­tos’ door. The trio mem­ber invit­ed Daniel to join the trio and he accept­ed. San­tos debuted with them on Sep­tem­ber 13, 1930, he sang in var­i­ous social events and was paid a dol­lar for every song that he sang. He returned to Puer­to Rico only to return once more to Man­hat­tan after he unsuc­cess­ful­ly tried to acquire a job as a singer at WKAQ, which was one of the island’s main radio stations.

Musical career

In late 1933 and 1934, San­tos per­formed in a night­club named Los Chilenos locat­ed near Broad­way and was paid twen­ty dol­lars per week­end. Per­son­al­ly, San­tos led a life of excess­es, includ­ing main­tain­ing sev­er­al roman­tic rela­tion­ships at once. In 1938, San­tos was work­ing at the Cuban Casi­no Cabaret in Man­hat­tan, which was nor­mal­ly vis­it­ed by Puer­to Ricans and oth­er Lati­nos. His chores includ­ed singing, wait­ing on tables and on occa­sions he was the mas­ter of cer­e­monies for which he was paid a salary of thir­ty dol­lars. On one occa­sion, he was singing “Amor Per­di­do” (Lost Love), with­out know­ing that the com­pos­er of the song Pedro Flo­res was in the audi­ence. Flo­res liked what he heard and invit­ed San­tos to join his group “El Cuar­te­to Flo­res” which also includ­ed Myr­ta Sil­va, and would in the future also include Pedro Ortiz Davi­la (also known by his stage name “Davili­ta”). San­tos record­ed many songs with the Cuar­te­to Flo­res and start­ed to gain fame. Among the songs he record­ed were: “Per­don”; “Amor”; “El Ulti­mo Adiós” “Si Yo Fuera Mil­lonario” by singer/composer Miguel Poven­tud and Bor­ra­cho no Vale’.

Participation in World War II

In the ear­ly 1940s, many young Puer­to Rican men were draft­ed for World War II, among them San­tos. San­tos record­ed “Des­pe­di­da” (My Good-bye), a farewell song writ­ten by Flo­res from the view­point of an Army recruit who had to leave behind his girl­friend and his ail­ing moth­er, which became a hit. San­tos recalled in an inter­view once that he had to hold back tears while record­ing the song, since his draft papers had just arrived and he would soon have to live a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to what the song’s lyrics described, but that a friend start­ed mock­ing him at the con­trol booth, to which he decid­ed to curse him on the spot, trad­ing the word mama’o (an exple­tive in Puer­to Rican Span­ish) for mamá (moth­er). This inci­dent pro­duced two man­ner­isms that San­tos even­tu­al­ly adopt­ed in his singing style: chopped deliv­ery (almost syl­la­ble by syl­la­ble, as sug­gest­ed by Flo­res) and stretched last vow­el in the last verse of each stan­za, in almost every song he record­ed afterwards.


He was sent to Maui Island, after com­plet­ing his basic mil­i­tary train­ing in Ken­tucky. In Maui, he was assigned to a US Army infantry unit which was used to replen­ish casu­al­ties in the Pacif­ic the­atre. San­tos would joke that he escaped the “replen­ish­ment levies” because of his gui­tar play­ing skills. Nev­er­the­less, he was sent to Oki­nawa towards the end of the war. While in the mil­i­tary San­tos teamed up with Juani­to Jiménez as a part of a duo dubbed Los Cum­bancheros. After the war con­clud­ed San­tos returned to New York, where he received a trib­ute upon his arrival. There he record­ed “Lin­da”, writ­ten spe­cial­ly for him by Flo­res for one of San­tos’ old girlfriends.

International performances

San­tos became active in the Puer­to Rican Inde­pen­dence Move­ment and iden­ti­fied him­self with the Puer­to Rican Nation­al­ist Par­ty and its pres­i­dent Pedro Albizu Cam­pos after he was dis­charged from the mil­i­tary because of the prej­u­dice which he expe­ri­enced with­in the Army. His devo­tion for Albizu last­ed through­out his life, to the point of com­mis­sion­ing, lat­er in his life, a bronze bust of Albizu for his estate in Puer­to Rico. With Davili­ta, he record­ed “Patri­o­tas” (“Patri­ots”) and “La Lucha por la Inde­pen­den­cia de Puer­to Rico” (“The Fight for Puer­to Rico’s Inde­pen­dence”), which was adopt­ed from one of Juan Anto­nio Cor­ret­jer’s poems.

On March 1946, San­tos inau­gu­rat­ed a bar and restau­rant named Bor­in­quen, and admin­is­trat­ed the estab­lish­ment for some weeks. Two months lat­er he began singing Mex­i­can music and boleros at Green­wich Vil­lage. Lat­er that year he vis­it­ed the Domini­can Repub­lic, where he had legal prob­lems and was jailed briefly.

Santos in Cuba

By this time San­tos’ fame had grown and he decid­ed to trav­el to Cuba, estab­lish­ing a res­i­dence in Havana in 1946. At the moment Cuba was expe­ri­enc­ing eco­nom­i­cal growth and San­tos devel­oped an inter­est in the island. Upon arriv­ing he expe­ri­enced suc­cess, mak­ing pre­sen­ta­tions in Paseo del Pra­do, Mira­mar and Veda­do. These includ­ed a spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion titled Ale­grias de Hat­uey, which was broad­cast by “Radio Pro­gre­so”, a radio sta­tion. He par­tic­i­pat­ed and sang for sev­er­al oth­er sta­tions, includ­ing RHC-Cade­na Azul and CMQ, where he par­tic­i­pat­ed in a pro­gram named Cas­ca­bel. This expo­si­tion came after he estab­lished friend­ships with local pub­lic fig­ures. The Cuban pub­lic cre­at­ed two names adopt­ed by San­tos, these were Inqui­eto and Ana­cobero, which he lat­er fused and became known as El Inqui­eto Ana­cobero. He also made five pre­sen­ta­tions in the­aters, among them the Martí theater.

In 1948, San­tos was invit­ed to per­form in the Cuban Nation­al Palace by the pres­i­dent in office, Car­los Prío Socar­rás. This year also marked San­tos’ debut with La Sono­ra Matancera, where he served as vocal­ist. His first suc­cess­ful sin­gle was titled Big­ote de Gato, based on an area of Havana named “Luyano”, which was infa­mous for serv­ing as the home for for­tune tellers. Lat­er that year San­tos was arrest­ed after becom­ing involved in a fight where he acci­den­tal­ly injured a woman after try­ing to defend him­self. San­tos was sub­se­quent­ly par­doned by Prío Socar­rás, but he asked to remain in jail twelve addi­tion­al days to spend the Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion with some of the inmates. While in prison he com­posed a sin­gle named El Pre­so and was asked to write Amnistía as part of a cam­paign to pro­mote the well-being of inmates. This was fol­lowed by sev­er­al suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tions with the Sono­ra Matancera. These includ­ed Dos gar­de­nias and Pa’ fric­asé los pol­los, which were based on Cuban music. Among sev­er­al oth­er con­tem­po­rary records were: El juego de la vida, El 5 y 6, El aji­a­co, El niño majadero, Ramonci­to campeón and El tíbiri tábara.

On March 10, 1952, Ful­gen­cio Batista orga­nized a suc­cess­ful coup d’é­tat and took con­trol of the island’s gov­ern­ment. San­tos, known for his Puer­to Rican inde­pen­den­tist pref­er­ences, was nev­er in the good graces of the dic­ta­tor. He made his nation­al­is­tic and demo­c­ra­t­ic views well known through­out Latin Amer­i­ca. As many peo­ple dur­ing those days, he viewed Fidel Cas­tro’s fight against Batista very favor­ably. In 1958, for­bid­den by Batista from return­ing to the island, he com­posed the song “Sier­ra Maes­tra”, which bor­rowed parts of the offi­cial hymn of the 26th of July Move­ment. San­tos donat­ed the prof­its from “Sier­ra Maes­tra” to the Cuban Revolution.

Return to Puerto Rico

He returned to the island lat­er that year and began an inter­na­tion­al tour on 1953, among the coun­tries vis­it­ed were Venezuela, Colom­bia and Mex­i­co. In 1954, he returned to Puer­to Rico and per­formed in hotels locat­ed in San Juan before con­tin­u­ing his tour through­out Amer­i­ca which extend­ed from 1955 to 1956. The tour con­clud­ed with a pre­sen­ta­tion in New York and he his returned to Cuba. Lat­er that year he vis­it­ed Ecuador for the first time in his artis­tic career. Here he was con­tract­ed to per­form in a the­ater named “Apo­lo”, where he worked with a band named the “Cos­ta Rica Swing Boys”. Dur­ing his third pre­sen­ta­tion San­tos lost his voice with­out com­plet­ing the sched­uled show, he tried to explain the sit­u­a­tion to the pub­lic but was unable to calm them down and a riot erupt­ed. While in Ecuador he com­posed two suc­cess­ful sin­gles, Cat­a­plum pa’ and Cau­tive­rio. Late in 1956, San­tos record­ed with a Venezue­lan record label named “Dis­co­mo­da”.

In 1959, he briefly returned to Cuba. It was dur­ing this trip that he con­front­ed Raul Cas­tro and Ernesto “Che” Gue­vara about the polit­i­cal nature of the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion he had sup­port­ed. He left Cuba abrupt­ly, nev­er to return, when Cas­tro and Gue­vara failed to con­vince him that the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion was “nation­al­is­tic”. A self pro­claimed “anti-com­mu­nist”, he explained that he had sup­port­ed the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion because its lead­er­ship had assured him that it was not communist.

On July 22, 1972 he per­formed in the inau­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mo­ny of El Bal­con del Pueblo, a build­ing owned by Radio Cristal, which was locat­ed at Guayaquil. In this activ­i­ty he per­formed for two con­sec­u­tive hours, work­ing an addi­tion­al hour due to pub­lic acclaim.

Later years

Dur­ing the last years of his life, San­tos toured the Unit­ed States and Latin-Amer­i­ca, while expe­ri­enc­ing health prob­lems. He con­tin­ued per­form­ing with sev­er­al music groups. While he per­formed with the Sono­ra Matancera, San­tos suf­fered a heart attack while he was sleep­ing in a hotel locat­ed in La Refor­ma after eat­ing din­ner. San­tos con­tin­ued per­form­ing dur­ing the fol­low­ing decades, mak­ing pre­sen­ta­tions in sev­er­al Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. He con­tin­ued to sing the songs which he had writ­ten dur­ing his career until he final­ly retired and estab­lished a res­i­dence in Florida.

In 1991, San­tos vis­it­ed some friends in New York City’s Bar­rio Lati­no, dur­ing this vis­it San­to’s was walk­ing through the street on a Sat­ur­day evening when he faint­ed and col­lapsed. He was attend­ed by some bystanders and res­i­dents of the neigh­bor­hood who called the New York City Police Depart­ment. When the police arrived at the scene they trans­port­ed him to a local hos­pi­tal, San­tos was released two days after. Dur­ing this time San­tos was also suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­ness­es, includ­ing mem­o­ry loss due to Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Despite his health he made final pre­sen­ta­tions in some of Puer­to Rico’s munic­i­pal­i­ties where he received recog­ni­tions in San Juan and Ponce. San­tos was also invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in a music fes­ti­val in Cuba, where he was sup­posed to receive a homage, but he was unable to attend.

Over the course of his life Daniel San­tos was legal­ly mar­ried on twelve sep­a­rate occa­sions. His first mar­riage took place in 1934, where he mar­ried Lucy Mon­til­la when he was eigh­teen years old. In 1947, he mar­ried Cuban socialite Euge­nia Perez Por­tal, who gave him his first son in 1948, Daniel Jr. After this he was involved in sev­er­al rela­tion­ships with women of sev­er­al Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, on occa­sions hav­ing more than one con­sec­u­tive­ly. When he was fifty-six years old he mar­ried Luz Dary Pedredín in a cer­e­mo­ny orga­nized on Colom­bia. The cou­ple had two chil­dren, Danilú and David Albizu. San­tos’ last mar­riage was with Ana Rivera, who was orig­i­nal­ly of Puer­to Rico.

Daniel San­tos died on Novem­ber 27, 1992, aged 76, at his ranch, “Ana­cobero’s Ranch” in Ocala, Flori­da. He is buried at what is vir­tu­al­ly Puer­to Rico’s nation­al pan­theon, the St. Mary Mag­da­lene of Pazz­is ceme­tery in Old San Juan, geo­graph­i­cal­ly quite close to where Albizu Cam­pos and Pedro Flo­res were interred. Due to the scarci­ty of emp­ty space in the ceme­tery, when fel­low Puer­to Rican singer and San­tos boy­hood friend Ela­dio Peguero (com­mon­ly known as “Yayo El Indio”) lat­er died, he was also buried in San­tos’ tomb.


San­tos’ life was the sub­ject of one semi-auto­bi­og­ra­phy, El Inqui­eto Ana­cobero: con­fe­siones de Daniel San­tos a Héc­tor Múji­ca, writ­ten as San­tos told his sto­ry to Venezue­lan author Héc­tor Múji­ca in 1982. His life was also the sub­ject of three bio­graph­i­cal books: Ven­go a decir­le adiós a los mucha­chos (1989), by Josean Ramos; La impor­tan­cia de lla­marse Daniel San­tos (1988), by Luis Rafael Sánchez and El Inqui­eto Ana­cobero, by Sal­vador Garmendia.