Jesús Sánchez Erazo “Chuíto el de Bayamón,” also known as “el decano de los cantores” (the dean of the singers), was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico in 1900. His mother, Aurora Erazo, died during childbirth, and his father, Ricardo Sánchez, passed away nine years later (Rodríguez León 1979: 56) (1). According to The Cuatro Project, he began working as a wagon driver learning to sing “cadenas” at a young age (2). Of humble origins, Chuíto also worked in the sugarcane fields, in sugar mill facilities and cigar factories thus enduring the exploitation common to the Puerto Rican peasantry (Rodríguez León 1979: 56). Chuíto’s calling for music, however, was always there: he wrote his first song at age twelve (Rodríguez León 1979: 57).
According to The Cuatro Project, he recorded popular music with Ralph Sánchez’s orchestra in 1926; though Chuíto alleged to have been the first jíbaro to sing on the radio, trovador Chuíto el de Cayey may have actually achieved this feat before him (3). In the 1940s, he became the lead-singer for cuatro player and composer Ladislao “Ladí” Martínez’s Conjunto Típico Ladí, created in New York City (Noel 2007: 6) (4). With Ladí, he recorded “Un jíbaro en Nueva York,” a controversia with Ernestina Reyes “La Calandria.” It was actually Ladí who baptized him as “Chuíto el de Bayamón” (Rodríguez León 1979: 58). From 1949 to 1977 Chuíto collaborated with Abelardo Díaz Alfaro, the famous Puerto Rican author, in the radio program “La vida de Teyo Gracia y su mundo” aired in WIPR (Malavet Vega 2015: 346; Rodríguez León 1979: 57) (5). In addition, Chuíto participated in the films “La trulla” (1951), "Preciosa" (1965), and "El otro camino" (1959).
Throughout his career Chuíto recorded more than 40 LPs (Malavet Vega 2015: 346) (6) and performed in New York, Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, Hawai’i, Spain, Cuba and other Latin American cities (Rodríguez León 1979: 57). His repertoire is characterized by its witticism and sense of humor, and sophisticated musical arrangements. Along with Flor Morales Ramos “Ramito,” Odilio González and Daniel Santos, he had a huge influence in the singing style of Puerto Rican salsa star Héctor Lavoe (Guadalupe Pérez 2005: 33) (7). In 1975 and 1976 he was recognized with the “Agüeybaná Gold Album” award (Rodríguez León 1979: 56).
Chuíto, who was a supporter of the political ideal that sought to make Puerto Rico a state of the United States (Rodríguez León 1979: 58), died in Bayamón in 1979. Shortly thereafter, Andrés Jiménez “El Jíbaro,” who is a pro-independence Puerto Rican nueva canción singer-songwriter, released the beautiful tribute album A Chuíto el de Bayamón, maestro de trovadores accompanied by Grupo Mapeyé. A testament, no doubt, to Chuíto’s ability to speak to Puerto Ricans of all political persuasions.
(1) See: «En la muerte de Don Chú, el gran trovador de Bayamón .» in Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Num 82, p. 56-58, by Mario A. Rodríguez León.
(4) Urayoán Noel. “In the Decimated City: Symptom, Translation and Diasporic Identity in El Conjunto Ladí’s ‘Un jíbaro en Nueva York’ (1947).”
(5-6) Pedro Malavet Vega. Sale loco de contento…la canción popular en Puerto Rico de 1927 al 1950.
(7) Hiram Guadalupe Pérez. Historia de la salsa.
-Dr. Mario R. Cancel-Bigay
released September 27, 1962