Nino del Arco, the boy who with his performance stole Latin America’s heart, escapes from the clutches of Covid19

In the golden age of Spanish cinema, Nino del Arco was considered the best child actor of the decade and for his millions of admirers in Latin America, he still is. His charisma was a round business for film studios and directors; Acting brought him fame, but he inevitably stole childhood from the most beloved child on screen in the 1960s and ’70s.

“They announced an audition for the movie A Handful of Dollars, my mother Olivia del Arco, and my aunt took me because I had a very funny face and I was lively. As soon as the Italian director Sergio Leone saw me, he said that they should look no further, that I would be the actor. I was blond and they dyed my hair black for that movie. From then on, it would be little school, studying scripts and living a life to which almost no child has access. “

Nino del Arco, was that child with an angelic face, that every mother wanted to be his, that every grandmother wanted as a grandson. A small man from Madrid who played on film forums, between screens and cameras, and memorized their dialogues, before starting the first grade of primary school.

His father Salvador del Arco, managed his short career, there was never an advertorialist or anything of the usual in this industry. Mr. Arc, accepted what he considered correct and rejected a couple of projects. One fine day they stopped offering him movies and he never knew why.

I was 13 years old, I think I just grew up and there were no more projects for me as a teenager. My father became ill with arthritis and the disease was progressing rapidly, the day came when the lack of offers and the severity of my father’s illness were the perfect combination to retire from the cinema. My childhood and the beginning of my adolescence remained in the filming forums, I was away for months at home, I missed my mother, the school examined me at the wrong time and thus I managed to act in a film per year and finish my studies at school. I went to the filming, to the premieres, but I never found out that he was a famous kid, nor did I know that he was a remembered child actor until I entered social networks in 2005, since then that affection has been a food, the best medicine.

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Nino is the same who became a parachutist and ultralight pilot, graduated from Bioethics at Rey Juan Carlos University, studied Law and Political Science, also studied criminology at UNED Madrid, a Master in Crime Prevention at the same university. .

Nino del Arco is the Spanish child with whom all of Latin America fell in love.

Nino del Arco is the Spanish child with whom all of Latin America fell in love.

(Courtesy Nino del Arco)

Personally, he married and has a 34-year-old childless marriage. He is a writer and has published poetry books and short novels. From the mandatory quarantine to combat the coronavirus crisis in Spain, Nino immersed himself in his desk work, concluding new literary projects.

The strict confinement transformed it into a great creative facet. Now that the ‘de-escalation of measures’ to reactivate the economy has arrived, he is looking for new horizons wishing to live from the art of writing.

However, although Spain gradually breathes liberties in phase three of covid19, confinement is extended for Nino del Arco.

If I make an effort it is difficult to breathe, I must maintain serenity and minimal physical movement, I have oxygen therapy and I cannot go up or down stairs, walk distances or travel; the bug is a great threat to everyone and I am at risk for my condition of pulmonary hypertension. I worked at the Castilla-La Mancha City Council Secretariat, but I have retired for three years.

Nino del Arco does not leave home as often as before. His medical condition prevents him and worse still, in times of humanity’s silent enemy Covid19. But there is no confinement for his creative mind and he has validated these months with a great literary production.

He recently published a collection of poems entitled Veneno del Tiempo (2019), writes novels from his youth, the collection of poems Temprano and his first novel El Escritor (2014) and continues at 61. Nino is currently writing scripts and during the quarantine, through his popular Facebook account he gave away his accurate Haikus.

I have dedicated myself to writing a Nazi thriller, poetry and sharing with my friends on social networks my Haikus, one every day of this long quarantine; those 3-line Japanese poems with 5, 7, and 5 syllables, which were a creative distraction. My wife is an assistant at a hospital close to home, and being at the front fighting the pandemic, there was anguish for us..

Those dreamy eyes, her sweet voice and great charisma conquered the most popular film directors of the time, who discovered the great talent in Nino. Paradoxically, that child actor with whom Latin America fell in love and remembers almost 6 decades later, is the same actor that Spain begins to remember valuing his contribution to cinema. During this quarantine, his films began to be seen on Spanish television and on YouTube, and Nino was reborn with them.

Cine del Barrio, a Spanish program led by Concha Velasco, had invited me to be with her and present my film, The Christ of the Ocean, I was happy for her, but confinement was ordered and I was left without attending the forum, although the film did televised it.

That first casting that made him an actor at age 5 was in the denim, Fistfull of Dollars (A Fistful of Dollars) in 1964, opposite actor Clint Eastwood and directed by Sergio Leone in Italy.

Nino del Arco in another of his films.

Nino del Arco in another of his films.

(Courtesy Nino del Arco)

Followed The Child and the Wall (1965) by Ismael Rodríguez filmed in Germany. Rodríguez directed Dolores del Río, Sara García, Gloria Marín, Antonio Aguilar, Tito Guízar and Flor Silvestre. But the film that launched him to fame was Tizoc with Pedro Infante and María Félix.

Nino acted in two films directed by Rodríguez, The first Adventure (1965), Great Friends (1967); Beyond the Mino River (1969), The great adventure (1969) all of them filmed in Mexico, as well as his acclaimed protagonist at the age of 12 in The Christ of the Ocean (1971)Kaliman the Incredible Man (1972).

Without a doubt, Nino del Arco was consecrated with The Christ of the Ocean.

I was able to cry easily, tears were coming quickly without effort. My trick was to remember my mother, I thought that by not seeing her for so long I could die and that I would be left without her and so I could cry for the scenes.

Nino del Arco, has so many anecdotes, such as creativity and talent, his last film as a child actor was Kaliman and the filming was in Cairo, Egypt.

I remember that the Cairo hotel had a huge pool, I had never seen anything like it; We would be on the shoot for a month and Adriana Roel and Susana Dosamantes acted in it. Alberto Mariscal, who was the director of the Kaliman film, stopped a scene and was upset with actor Jeff Cooper; Because he was not riding as Mariscal wished, then the director, got on the beautiful white steed and started at full gallop to show Cooper how he should do it when on the scene he falls from the horse hurting himself.

The adventure in Egypt has many anecdotes, but the most intense was when the authorities accused the production of stealing a gigantic stone, so enormous that it was impossible to hide it anywhere because the famous stone they were looking for was bigger than a truck. They did not allow us to leave until the stone appeared and 2 more months passed. We were 3 months in Egypt, in the end, the production paid a fine for the stone that never existed.

The great Adventure took him to Mexico. In the Aztec land, there lived another famous youth actress Mili Bayardo, one of the beautiful twins of the television duo Pili and Mili who also conquered Latin American homes. Married to a Mexican entertainment businessman, Mili, she invited him to dinner at her home.

At my age crossing the Atlantic, going to Mexico and seeing the Teotihuacán pyramids, swimming on the beaches of Acapulco and visiting Oaxaca was wonderful; That trip would be one of the best anecdotes for my friends at school. He acted alongside Juliancito Bravo, the teenage actor who had more tables and was older than me; Then I found out about a teenage rivalry, so he did not treat me very well, although I never noticed it, everyone said that he always knew how to steal the plans during filming. They called his attention several times, even my father reproached him. As a child he does not find out about those things.

Marisol, Pili and mili, Pablito Clavo, Joselito, Ana Belén and I, were that generation of young child actors from the golden age of Spanish cinema. Since the filming of The Great Adventure, he has been receiving letters, postcards, messages of affection and admiration for years.

Nino del Arco won the Special Interpretation Award at the Conde de Granollers festival in Spain in 1971. The cinema gave him other moments with Hunting in 1983 and a participation in the television series Thieves go to the office in 1994. His author’s pen gives him a present and a future awaits him, just as his childish performance allows him to be remembered.

The money I earned was not for me, it was for our house, we ate better, nothing was missing. It was hard to have a childhood scheduled for filming commitments, to miss my mother as an only child, but I understand that more now than before. I keep that birthday in Cairo, when they brought me a huge cake to celebrate. With the magic that the cinema gave to my life, the children of that time did not travel by plane, they did not transcontinental like I did.

During Covid19, a Haiku from Nino del Arco calls for optimism and solidarity in the face of the crisis:

Live the hours,

let life pass

Come joy!

Many people passed itfrom Too bad in Spain, while the country applauded every day the heroic dedication of the health sector, including my wife who works in a hospital, a few cowards left threatening messages in the elevators of different buildings in the country. In Spain we suffered a lot, we saw enough people die, this episode stole our happiness for a while and this pandemic leaves us with a new reality. Now the suffering is in America and it hurts a lot. In life, as in the Pandemic, there are challenges to overcome, however difficult they may be.

Araceli Martínez-Rose is a Mexican journalist who collaborates from Germany.

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