Community mourns latin guitarist

Latin American guitarist Hector de Santiago drowned Tuesday night in a swimming pool at Byron Bay.
Latin American guitarist Hector de Santiago drowned Tuesday night in a swimming pool at Byron Bay.

RENOWNED local Latin American guitarist Hector de Santiago tragically drowned in a swimming pool accident in Byron Bay on Tuesday night.

Shocked family, friends and fellow musicians were struggling to come to terms with the news yesterday as word spread through the north coast community.

Paramedics responded to an emergency call from a Belongil Crescent residence about 9pm on Tuesday, arriving shortly after to find the 58 year-old guitarist in cardiac arrest. They immediately took over CPR from bystanders but were unable to revive him.

Mr de Santiago was a long time resident of Byron Bay having moved from Sydney in the late eighties after emigrating from Mexico.

He was widely considered the finest Latin American guitarist in the region.

Long time friend Parissa Bouas, one half of the Hottentots, was devastated when she heard the news yesterday morning while rehearsing with her current band Diaspora Latina.

“We were in shock and didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“Then we thought we’d just keep playing because that’s what Hector would do. He lived to pay music.

“We used to play together at the Buckets of Jam gigs in Kings Cross in the eighties. That’s how I met Carl (Cleves, partner and fellow Hottentots member).

“Hector was an inspiration ... it was the first time many musicians in Sydney were exposed to Latin American music.”

Diaspora Latina percussionist Steve Nugent played with Mr de Santiago for more than 25 years. Byron Bay locals might remember their transcendental performances outside Fresh cafe several years back.

“People pouring out of the Beach Hotel, The Rails and the clubs would stop, mesmerised, and tell us it was the best music in town,” Mr Nugent said.

“He used to amaze me; he would have all the women swooning ... but he had a heart of gold and would give you the shirt off his back.

“We used to play the markets back in Sydney ... but if we didn’t have a gig we’d play in the streets.”

Diaspora Latina will dedicate their next gigs to Mr de Santiago at the Belongil Treehouse at 6pm on April 22; and at the Ballina RSL on April 24. Mr de Santiago is survived by his son Fabian, his ex-wife Diana and his sister Yolanda.

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