Mind-Dancing the Loneliness of Freedom: The Life-dance-story of “Sanmao”1943-1991

They met up again when Jose was temporarily working as diver in Nigeria, (he was 8 years her junior, she 38 when they decided to try for a child) where they reunited and lived together for a while. Next (and last) was the couple’s arrival with all its exoticism to Santa Cruz de La Palma in early 1979, when the capital had a population palm of 17,000. They stayed at a condo at Rocamar, which still exists today near the Maldonado area, with a superb view over the Atlantic. The diver was working in the port of the capital – at the time Palma was also experiencing an expansion. His job was to make up the seabed and supervise the settlement of the corresponding concrete blocks. A job that suited perfectly because he had done this before in Nigeria and Sahara.

In September 1979, the parents of Sanmao visited La Palma. where they met Jose, – by which time Sanmao was already a devoted writer. With them she went on a trip to London, leaving her husband on the island of La Palma, where he could continue work in the port. Nobody foresaw it would be the last time she would see him alive as they said goodbye at the airport.

On 30 September, Quero embarked with a group of friends in Santa Cruz for a day of spearfishing in the north of the island, to spend a day with friends on/in the sea, off the windward edge of Fajana The dive was in group. But as the fishermen surfaced, there was no José María. When they want back underwater all they found was his rifle and the spear, about fifteen feet deep, on which a barracuda was hooked. A first search by the police was thwarted by rain and fog, but the next day, on October 1, 1979, the body of Jose Maria Quero was found about fifty feet deep.


The writer and her parents only learned what had happened when they returned to La Palma, “My love, my love,” – it is said that they were the only words that a desolate Sanmao uttered. The pain cut deeper still when when, weeks later, she lost the child she was carrying in her womb from Jose by miscarriage.
In May 1980, Sanmao spent time revisiting Telde, but it was not the same. Not surprising then that
in 1991 she committed suicide. It is likely that the Chinese writer stopped living the day her husband was lost forever in the Atlantic seabed, in a short but decisive and tragic stay in La Palma which is still remembered today.”


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