Great Argentine Songs and Their Stories RAE ARGENTINA TO THE WORLD

La Pomeña, the shepherdess who became a zamba

"La Pomeña" is a zamba that was immortalized all over the world by Mercedes Sosa. The poetry of its lyrics written by Manuel J. Castilla and the sweetness of Gustavo "Cuchi" Leguizamón's music, come together in of the most popular zambas of all times.

The zamba tells the story of a teenage shepherdess, Eulogia Tapia, in the time of the carnival in the province of Salta, in the north of Argentina.

Eulogia, 75 years old, still lives in the town of La Poma, about 1672 kilometers from the city of Buenos Aires. She continues with her quiet life as a goat shepherdess, singing coplas, far from the universal fame that the verses gave her.


It was in the 1960s when the poet Manuel Castilla arrived in this corner of the world to celebrate carnival and drink some wines in the local store, "La Flor del Pago", which still exists. The story goes that at that moment an 18-year-old girl entered, her face covered with flour as carnival is celebrated in the north.

She had a coplera box in her hands to buy something for her house. Shyly, Eulogia accepted Castilla's challenge to a singing duel. The teenager won in the improvisation, and without saying more, she went out to look for her white horse that had been left at the front of the store.

"La Pomeña" is a portrait full of images of what were the carnival celebrations in the most ancient villages, surrounded by the mountains. According to Eulogia herself in a report, the part of the song the poet mentions that “the willow tree cries because it is stolen” is due to the fact that in those carnival times, several of the family's goats had been stolen.

However, a traditional and more established version speaks of a custom that existed in other times for the date of the Carnival. Those days were the time when lovers could meet without asking permission from their parents. This is called "stealing for Carnival".

According to this story, Eulogia was "stolen" at that time by her later husband Avilio, with whom she had two daughters. "La Pomeña" was first sung in the late 1960s by the Salteño Duo.

The wheat that is cutting/ripening at its waist/looking at alfalfa flowers/black eyes are bluish/looking at alfalfa flowers/black eyes are bluish (...)./// The story goes that Manuel Castilla couldn't resist being beaten in verse by a teenage girl.

That's why the next day he went to Eulogia's house to sing again in counterpoint. With the permission of the teenager's father the duel was made. And again the poet lost. That was the last time they saw each other. Before he left, Castilla promised that the prize would be a zamba that he would write about her.

Years later, the Tapia family was listening to the radio when they played a zamba in which they talked about "Eulogia Tapia in La Poma". That was the beginning of a fame that turned the shepherdess and her village into a travel destination.

According to the newspapers of her province, despite the popularity of her name, things did not change much for her. Every summer morning she is found milking her goats, before heading out to the neighbouring hills to graze her flock while her husband looks after the alfalfa in a rented field.

When asked, Eulogia says that it "hurt her a lot" to learn of the death of Mercedes Sosa, the woman who made her universal with her singing and who perhaps made the most beautiful version of the zamba.