I have already commented on some occasion that it was very common that the finishing of guitars, which was traditionally done with shellac before the appearance of synthetic varnishes, was carried out by skilled women, and that in some cases it would be the wives of the guitar makers who did that work, as could happen with my ancestors. Of course, I know that my grandmother, Blanca Martínez Unzueta, never varnished any guitar, but she did attend to customers in the store and knew very well all the details of the business, the models, the qualities… an expert who was a great help for my father, José Ramírez III.
And keeping in mind my grandmother, I have often wondered about the role that his wife, Filomena Vera Cervelló, could play in the workshop of my great-granduncle Manuel Ramírez, who after the death of her husband reopened the workshop on May 16th, 1918, as Viuda de Manuel Ramírez. With this, of course, she kept the business and the work of her employees, who became independent as they became known and were ready to set up their own workshops, with the exception of Modesto Borreguero who stayed with her until the end.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to know what knowledge she had about the guitar, and if she ever did any work in the workshop, since the professional activities of women, limiting ourselves in this case to guitar workshops, have been conveniently kept in the dark.
Manuel Ramírez died without descendants, being us the only family that inherited his legacy. In fact, we kept his catalogues, unfortunately the originals were lost when we lent them to carry out certain studies and we never recovered them again, but we also keep violin templates and his documents, as well as guitars built by him and others by Viuda de Manuel Ramirez.
And although it is known that the brothers, José and Manuel, argued and severed their relationship drastically without reconciling again in life, my grandfather, José Ramírez II, as heir to his uncle Manuel, lived in his house in Cava Baja when he returned to Spain with her family since her long stay in Buenos Aires, a house that I knew, by the way, when I was a little girl and that my grandmother sold shortly after she was widowed.
As one more fact of how relationships are mysteriously intertwined, just as Modesto Borreguero continued to work with Filomena Vera when she became a widow, his son, Enrique Borreguero, worked in my father’s workshop and was a great help in when I started building guitars.
And, even more, I lived in the house of Modesto Borreguero, in Ópera, when I bought it from his heirs without knowing yet that that magical link had led me there, a link that unites us with my great-granduncle Manuel following indirect and unsuspected paths, so not everything was broken when the brothers discussed. I hope they have settled their accounts wherever they are now, because we are still linked to them in the wake they left.
March 14, 2022.
Article by Amalia Ramírez.