Carmen Amaya was born on 2 November 1918 in a slum of Somorrostro, Barcelona, Catalonia, to José Amaya and Micaela Amaya Moreno. She came from a very poor family that lived in a wagon. She was born under their wagon turned home during an early winter storm. Amaya was second of six surviving children of her parents. She had three sisters and two brothers. She learned flamenco at very early age from her mother, aunt and many other famous dancers of that time.
Amaya first danced in a cave near Granada, Spain. She danced from the time she was five years old. Accompanied on the guitar by her father, she danced in waterfront taverns in Barcelona. A young person who saw her dance as a girl was Sabicas (Agustín Castellón Campos), who later said “I saw her dance and it seemed like something supernatural to me… I never saw anyone dance like her. I don’t know how she did it, I just don’t know!”. Sabicas became a great flamenco guitarist and accompanied her for many years. He recorded Queen of the Gypsies (1959) and Flamenco! with Amaya.
In 1929, she made her debut in Paris with noted Spanish dancer Raquel Meller, to warm acclaim and admiration of her dancing skills. She then performed at the Folies Bergère. She declined an offer to perform in Buenos Aires until she was called to appear in Madrid. After this acclaimed performance, she accepted the Buenos Aires offer, in spite of protestations from her uncle Sebastian, one of the sixteen members of her entourage. Argentine audiences were so impressed that they named a theater after her. She then toured in different countries of South America, and in Mexico City she was signed by S. Hurok, who brought her to New York City. She moved to the United States in 1936, where she went on to act in several films that garnered critical acclaim and broke box office records, including the Romeo and Juliet adaptation Los Tarantos, and short film Danzas Gitanas (Spanish for Gypsy dances). Amaya was invited by president Franklin Roosevelt to dance in the White House in 1944, and also by Harry S. Truman in 1953.Amaya is buried in the Cemetery of Ciriego at Santander.
- November, 02, 1918
- Barcelona, Spain
- November, 19, 1963
- Begur, Spain
- Cementerio de Santander
- Cantabria, Spain