Growing up

Amalia Aguilar, dancer, actress and comedienne, was born Amalia Isabel Rodriguez Carriera on the 3rd July 1928 in Matanzas, Cuba, in a big house with high windows, huge doors and a patio full of rose plants. As a small child, her father Don Oscar used to improvise children’s shows on that patio, organizing entertainment for the local kids and charging them not money but a single button for admission. Amalia was a happy child and also quite lively, born (as Cubans say) with “rhythm in her blood”. As a small child she used to act and sing in these shows alongside her sister Cecilia, whilst their mother Regla provided piano accompaniment.
Mother - Regla
Amalia’s father was always their mentor and he encouraged the pair to form “The Aguilar Sisters” ("Las Hermanas Aguilar") duet. In her teens Amalia also started acting as an amateur at Matanza’s Sauto Theatre. From the outset Amalia’s acting and dance routines reflected her natural charm and genuine nature. Once, travelling to Havana, she entered into a contest at the Teatro Carral de Guanabacoa, where she won the first prize. Her road to stardom had begun. As a young girl Amalia also studied ballet with various dance teachers in Cuba, such as Lita Enhart (Mexican), Lalo Maura (Argentinean) and Jorge Harrison (Cuban), to name just a few…
As young girls the “Aguilar Sisters” began touring Cuba, singing in very small theatres; they travelled from one town to the next, always in the presence of their parents, sometimes by bus and other times on foot. As the sisters became better known, Amalia also began working solo at La Cabaña, where she was offered a contract to act at the best Circus in Cuba in their variety show. Her career took off immediately and soon after, she began working at the renowned Cabaret Tropicana of Havana, even then already perhaps the most famous Cabaret in all Cuba.
The sisters - Amalia & Cecilia
A family gathering : Don Oscar (top left) Dona Regla (far right) Amalia (ctr right)
During the sisters shows, their father, always the mentor, would be the first to start clapping, encouraging the audience to do the same. Then one day they attended an audition at the Marti Theatre in order to earn some money to buy themselves fur coats. Julio Richard, a famous dancer in charge of selecting talent for the theatres revues, approached Amalia and said to her: “You look lovely, my dear. Your breasts stand firm, but you are no good. Get out! Out!” Amalia left the theatre in tears, followed by her sister. Their aspiration to be dancers was deeply affected. But, despite this set back they didn’t give up.

Then one day, Havana’s Hotel Nacional advertised a ‘rumba contest’ in all the major newspapers, calling for “all the best rumba dancers of Cuba to participate” and in spite of her earlier set back Amalia decided to enter. To her family’s considerable surprise, she was offered a contract that very day. This opened the door to a new and previously unimaginable world and she began dancing solo at the Hotel Nacional for a long season, as well as continuing alongside her sister at the Eden Concert cabaret. By this time they were also performing regularly at other famous venues such as the Cadena Azul and at the concert recordings of Cuba’s CMQ radio station. Other work included collaborations with theatre groups, acting and doing variety shows. And then besides all of this the duo Las Hermanas Aguilar still continued to tour the provinces, enjoying success wherever they performed.
The sisters - Amalia (left)
In performance
Amalia & Piruli: Hotel Nacional, Havana