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

Another and much fuller (Spanish) obituary explains a good deal more about her loneliness, and why she later defined it as freedom- in self defence against Memory:

Jose Maria Quero Ruiz was husband of Sanmao, a Chinese writer (1943-1991), before he died on the island of La Palma in late 1979. A tragedy that marked for life this eastern “cult author” (autora de culto en oriente). Recently, we were informed by the operators of the cemetery, a Chinese installed a plaque at the site of the tomb in memory of the husband of the writer, which demonstrates the importance she (still) has.

Chen Ping, known in Europe as Echo Chen, Sanmao used the pseudonym “Echo” for her literary work, a name that became a sine qua non in contemporary Chinese literary culture. Hence her followers pursue he traces of her life in a a continuous pilgrimage to his grave. She herself, in one of his most famous poems, The olive tree of my dreams”, wondered “why wander so far?”.

This famous writer and her husband lived a short stay in La Palma, but one that ended her love life – marred her deeply and forever by the tragedy that happened with the loss of Jose Maria Quero under water while spearfishing. (Poseidon!)

What was it that brought this couple to La Palma?

Born in March 1943 in mainland China, Echo Chan moved with her family to Taiwan following the Communist revolution. In 1965 she began studies of Philosophy in Taipei. Thence began a series of tours abroad, taking her to countries like Spain, Germany or the United States.

In 1967 in Madrid she met Jose Maria Quero, from Andalusia (Jaén), eight years younger than her. This boy was captivated by the beauty of Sanmao, who refused to understand that he was too young for her. Back in Taiwan, she began working as a German teacher. There she fell in love with a teacher from Germany who died on the eve of their wedding, perhaps as a harbinger of the tragedy that persisted through her love life. After this loss, Sanmao returned to Spain, where still awaited a determined Jose Maria Quero, who caught up with her again in the winter of 1972.

In 1972, the couple moved to the province of (still) Spanish Sahara, where Ruiz Quero found work as a diver in the harbor works of the port of Laayoune. A land where they were very happy and were married in July 1974. The advent of decolonization required them to leave the African continent and travel to Gran Canaria, where a resort was being installed on the beach of Man, in Telde.

It is at this stage that she published her Stories of the Sahara (1976), her first book, which was a huge hit with Chinese audiences. That same year, the writer traveled to Taipei to take care of the issue of her second book, a compilation of some of her earliest titled writings. This trip back home also served to reunite her with family and friends for the first time after marrying in Spain.

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