Xin Hu Lapetra




Many Zaragozans have expressed their indignation that Carlos Lapetra has not figured yet in this section of “Famous Sons of Zaragoza”. Lapetra was a football player, now largely forgotten beyond the banks of the Ebro. Anybody interested in his life and soccer prowess should go to Wikipedia, where no doubt they can find dozens of fascinating statistics about this sportsman who retired in 1969 after a notable career.


However, we at Zaragoza Twins are more attracted to the life of his sister, Pilar. She was born here in our glorious city in 1948, and very little is known of her early life. At the age of 16, she emigrated to China, infused with Maoist ideas thanks to a penfriend known only as “Wang”. Obviously gifted for languages, she soon mastered both Mandarin and Cantonese and got a job at the Peking chamber of commerce in the summer of 1965. The Cultural Revolution was a time of turmoil and chaos for most foreigners in China, but Pilar thrived thanks to her denouncement of western imperialism, becoming one of the mainstays of the Great Leap Forward among foreigners in Peking, alongside such legendary figures as Larry Parker (who went on to manage the Chinese national volleyball team) and Boris McSoares, the astronaut.


Lapetra took a keen interest in Chinese opera, and performed in many works before being spotted by Jiang Qing, who was later to be better known as “Madame Mao”. Thanks to Jiang’s influence, Lapetra soon became one of the leading figures in the Revolutionary Peking Opera Company, where she changed her name to Xin Hu (“Small Green Vegetable”.) Her Spanish looks added a note of exoticism to the revolutionary opera, and her ability to sing in the fang qi style as well as wei chu zie, and dance in a style reminiscent of the great Zheng Liu, soon ensured her a reputation and a lifestyle that she could never have dreamt of at home in Zaragoza.


Tragically, and inevitably perhaps, Xin Hu Lapetra fell victim to infighting within the Opera Company and the Communist Party itself in 1968. A dazibao appeared on the wall of the theatre where the company was due to perform on June 6 of that year, accusing Lapetra of bourgeois thinking, probably because of her insistence to use Spanish toothpaste, rather than the local-made Thousand Tigers brand. She was expelled from the Company in 1969 and forced to do reeducation work in the distant northern garlic fields of Huizhi. Living conditions were dire, and Pilar Xin Hu Lapetra died in the winter of 1970. Her family’s attempts to bring the body back to Zaragoza were in vain. She was officially rehabilitated in 1991, and recordings of her opera performances were shown once again on Chinese TV.


Revolutionary Peking Opera productions which she appeared in include Red Detachment of Women, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Shachiapang and Boulder Bay, all of which are now available on DVD.       


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