April 22, 2024


One day in 1964, Petra Martínez, who wanted to be an actress, went with her boyfriend to see caligula to the Bellas Artes theater in Madrid. There, the 20-year-old girl did not take her eyes off Escipión, the role played by 24-year-old Juan Margallo. “I have always paid close attention to men’s legs, I like them a lot. And when I saw them I thought: what beautiful legs! Of course, I was wearing those Roman skirts”, says Petra Martínez (Linares, Jaén, 78 years old) in front of a café on a terrace in Madrid. “But you hadn’t been with that boy for a long time,” continues Juan Margallo (Cáceres, 81 years old). “No, he was a boyfriend from work. I was already bored with him and he with me. Boyfriends, when you’re young, are boring,” she replies. Within a few weeks, she asked that boy to buy tickets to see Cleopatra at the cinema. “He called me to tell me that they weren’t left, and I told him ‘well, look, I don’t want to see you anymore.’

Read, in Petra Martínez’s last response there are echoes of Fina Palomares, the twisted and feared owner of The one that is coming, the famous series of the Caballero brothers, but the gesture belies it: when he speaks, also when he utters the most unexpected phrase, he always smiles. She is now shooting a new season of fiction. Margallo, by his side, prepares the second part of champions, the award-winning film by Javier Fesser for which the actor was a Goya candidate. Despite this noisy foray into the cinema, he is a legend of Spanish theater (twice winner of the MAX, Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts). Petra Martínez, who has also done a lot of theater, has appeared more on television and in the movies. Her last movie life was that, has given him nominations (including Goya) and awards; in it she plays a woman who teaches, she said, that “there is no age to change, find yourself, fall in love and start anew.”

For the delivery of the award for best actress in the Feroz, a few months ago, she did not prepare a speech. “I told her: Petra, she prepares something in case you win, but she never prepares anything. So she went on stage and said that she masturbated five times a day, ”says Juan, resigned. She lets out a laugh. “Look, I didn’t want that role precisely because I didn’t see myself in certain scenes, like the one where she masturbated me. But then I thought: we have to normalize this. She played the role, and delighted. And while she went up on stage, she thought about how close I came to rejecting him because of the subject of sex, and when I started talking, I only had masturbation on my mind. And he said, in front of a devoted audience: “The most important thing is to have masturbated in front of a lot of people, because I think that masturbation is totally silenced, and now I masturbate about three or four times a day because I’ve caught the mania, and Juan tells me: ‘Let’s go to bed’. And I tell him: ‘No, I prefer on the sofa, watching TV, and that’s how I masturbate watching Javier (Cámara)”.

Petra Martínez’s speech when collecting the Feroz 2022 Award for Best Leading ActressPhoto: EFE | Video: EPV

They have been married for 54 years. They have two children, Juan and Olga; they have grandchildren. They always or almost always worked together: in theater groups such as Tábano, El Búho or El Gayo Vallecano, until they founded, together, the company Uroc Teatro. They hosted programs together (for example, the Sesame Street of the Caponata Hen). They eat breakfast together every day, they live together. And jealousy? How do you live in two actors who fall in love and fall out of love with others in fiction? “I’m going to tell you one thing,” Petra blurts out: “I’ve been an actress all my life, but I haven’t done any kissing or sleeping scenes with anyone. Never never. And John, neither. I don’t think I would like to see him kissing someone else.”

Petra Martínez saw Juan Margallo again in the sixties in the acting classes that she took with William Layton. “I saw it and I thought: ‘Damn, the one from caligula. I used to live with my parents in a chalet in the Retiro neighborhood, and I really liked parties: I was a party girl. So I invited him to one and he came. We didn’t dance or anything.” Later, Juan went to London (where he worked as a waiter, dishwasher and singer of four boleros) and, when he returned, he found that Petra was rehearsing a play, story for bedtime at the Beatriz Theatre. He went to see her a month in a row. At the end, she went to see her in her dressing room, where one day they kissed for the first time. “I left the theater euphoric.” They decided to buy two rings at a jewelry store. Petra shows it on her finger more than half a century later, Juan lost it a long time ago.

Detail of the hands of Petra Martínez (she with her ring) and Juan Margallo.
Detail of the hands of Petra Martínez (she with her ring) and Juan Margallo.bald elm

One day, Petra got pregnant. They decided to go live together. All this, at the end of the sixties and without getting married. Since they did not want to do it for the Church, they decided that the wedding would take place outside of Spain: in Gibraltar. But the fence at that time was closed. “My brother, who lived in La Línea, couldn’t come to the wedding: we had to see each other through the gate,” recalls Juan. They had to travel first to Tangier, and from there to Gibraltar. The person who had a regular time at the border was Petra’s mother, Luisa Pérez Matamoros. To avoid conflicts, she falsified her passport: Luisa Pérez Matamaras. “If they find her with her forged document, who knows what’s wrong with her, but it worked,” says Juan.

The father of the actress, the youngest of seven siblings (“the youngest of the house, the protected one, that’s why it was so difficult for me to leave”), was a telegraph operator; her mother, an unstoppable woman in everything she tackled (“if she had been born later, she would have invented Amazon”). When the war was ending, they left Spain on foot, crossing Behobia to reach France. Her father was able to flee to Russia or Mexico, but he wanted to return deceived by the Franco regime’s offer: nothing will happen to all those who have not committed blood crimes.

“He said he didn’t want his children to be foreigners, which is a bit of a silly phrase because I would have loved to be born in Paris,” says Petra. She returned and they locked him up in an improvised concentration camp in the Tabacalera de Bilbao. Through the wife of a lieutenant colonel who went to the same park as her with her children, my mother managed to get her interested in my father. They put him on trial. He was released, but unable to climb the ranks and exiled to Linares, where I was born. He was able to return to Madrid later.

The father of Juan Margallo, a soldier who waged war on the Francoist side; his mother, teacher. “He was practicing when the war broke out, he stopped working, he had nine children —we are all alive— and he raised them; when he finished, he went back to teaching ”. When Petra and Juan already had a child, and had not married, Juan’s father could not see her. Literally, not in the sense that he disliked her. “She was awesome,” Juan says. “Petra came home with the child already born and my family locked him in a room. I didn’t know what to do with this of ours. One day he bumped into her in the hallway, Petra. And he told her very seriously, because he was a very serious soldier: ‘I have nothing against you.’ And I thought: but if she talks to him about her, why can’t he see her? Petra: “She was beyond that, you have to understand that.” Juan’s sisters are part of Petra’s group of best friends. “You will tell me: I have been with them for 54 years, the same time that I was married to Juan.”

Petra Martínez and Juan Margallo during the performance of the play 'La madre pasota / Cosas nuestras de nosotros mismos', in Seville in 2012.
Petra Martínez and Juan Margallo during the performance of the play ‘La madre pasota / Cosas nuestras de nosotros mismos’, in Seville in 2012.

In Live on air, his memoirs, Margallo remembers that he was born thanks to the International Brigades. His father was taken prisoner by the Republican Army in the Civil War: “It was on Cerro de los Ángeles, and they had the controls in a hole. I think my father was a sergeant back then. They ordered the commander to be shot, then the captain, the lieutenant, and when they were going to shoot my father, a Mexican from the International Brigades said: ‘Why don’t you let him? Who tells you that he doesn’t want to have more kids, when all this is over? Nine, he had. That is why Margallo slips from time to time, as a tribute, to say kids instead of children.

When he found out that his little girl was leaving home with a baby, and in the midst of the family fuss, with shouts everywhere, Petra’s father, Manolo Martínez, went to bed for seven days without speaking to anyone and hardly eating anything. “Did not talk. Not with my mother, not with me, not with anyone. Seven days,” she says. After a week, the father said the first word, then the second, and even he got out of bed. Petra’s mother phoned her daughter: “Dad is fine, he’s already talking!” Her daughter asked her father what had happened to her. He answered honestly: “That he had a crazy head. He needed to reconsider, and I have already reconsidered: do what you want ”. It happened to her again when she wanted to commit suicide, after her mother died. She went back to bed without talking to anyone and without eating. Petra, her youngest daughter, took him to a doctor who had assisted some prisoners on hunger strike in the Yeserías prison in Madrid. The woman told him: “Manolo, death by hunger strike is frightful,” and she told him what it consisted of. That night the man called Petra to her room. “Go run for two hamburgers and a beer.”

The couple of actors, photographed in the Madrid neighborhood of Arganzuela.
The couple of actors, photographed in the Madrid neighborhood of Arganzuela.bald elm

The families, except for those first hours of peculiarities, turned to them. And his friends, and his theater partners: helping with the babies (Olga and Juan), allowing them to continue working and traveling, looking for a life in the theaters and outside of them. It is then, when remembering it, that Petra Martínez makes this reflection:

—It is said that love is a matter of two. It can be, but it almost never is. What surrounds you is very important. If one of the two families doesn’t give in (or if both don’t give in, look what happened to Romeo and Juliet), or if friends don’t push, you can get ahead, but it’s more difficult. We have been very lucky. With Juan’s family and with mine, who bet everything on our love. With our friends, who conspired to make this work. We have always had things around us that helped us get here. We have not done it alone.

—It has been fundamental, says Juan.

—We argue to reach an agreement or get closer to it, not to distance ourselves and hurt each other. Of course we argue! But not to be smart and you stupid, or vice versa. We argue to get closer, to try to understand the other (…). Life is changing, the world is changing. The absurd thing is to think that you do not change the love you have for your partner and the one your partner has for you. Look, it’s very hard to get to our years together, you have to go through bad times, but it’s worth it. Even if it’s just to see, after so long, how you manage to have your own room at home, in case you want to sleep comfortably.

They laugh and ask for the bill.

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