Meet the ESCXTRA team! Part 11 – RODRIGO

This summer, we are running a series of feature articles that is slightly different to the norm. We think this is the perfect time for you (and us!) to find out more about the ESCXTRA team! Twice a week we’ll meet two of our team members. What is our personal Eurovision story? Why did we want to be a part of this website? What are our favourite Eurovision songs of all-time? How can you get in touch with us on social media? Read on to find out!

Rodrigo Romero Hidalgo

I’m Rodrigo, originally from Mexico City but currently living in London. Even though I was born and raised in Mexico, my mindset has always been a bit too European and I am very grateful to be living the dream of actually being on this side of the Atlantic. I am 33, fairly recently married and I work as a lawyer in the City of London. I have the privilege of being one of the original members of escXtra, which we founded when we all decided to part ways with our old site.
You can follow me on the following social media handles:
Twitter: @rodras29
Instagram: @rodras29

Your first Eurovision memory?

My earliest Eurovision memory is from 1995. Around that time, TVE had started broadcasting the International channel in Mexico, and being a Spanish-Mexican (or Mexican-Spanish, not sure what the right protocol for this is?) family it seemed we were all sufficiently excited so as to have TVE on pretty much all the time. You know, to keep on top of the very important recent affairs of even the tiniest part of Spain. Anyway, I vividly remember Anabel Conde leaving heart and soul on the stage of Dublin and remember being bitterly disappointed when she only came second. I mean, the woman left lung and a half there! Robbed!

Your Eurovision journey?

After that initial 1995 shocker I don’t really have much, if at all any, recollection of having Eurovision in my life until 2000. I was livid with Raúl ended up as runner up in the Spanish selection and therefore actually watched the contest wanting Serafín Subirí to fail miserably, but then fell badly and ended up timidly rooting for him. The following year, the Spanish entry drew me to the contest again, as David Civera’s song is definitely down my summer alley. So I watched again, and then the magic spell was cast because…
Natasha St-Pier. What a goddess! 2001, one of the, if not the, worst editions of all time produced one of the most beautifully composed and performed songs in the history of the contest (should have kept it fully in French, though!). France was absolutely robbed and in a dreadful year should have won a landslide victory. But hey, it was not to be and Estonia (worst.winner.ever!) walked it.
At the very least the love affair between Natasha and me continues until today (on my end, anyway!). I have followed her career since and I can safely say that, if for nothing else, being a fan of the contest is worth it because it brought Natasha’s voice to my life. But then it all turned a bit obsessive because…
In 2002 Spain went down the Operación Triunfo route. Now, strangely, OT was a phenomenon not only in Spain but also in the other side of the Atlantic (colonial mentality or something). Point is I was hooked to the show and followed every live gala and the daily summaries with teenage passion. My favourite eventually came 7th, but Rosa’s undying talent, matched probably only by her charm, was enough to do to trick. I tuned in for the third time, although a bit less certain of victory being a foregone conclusion than every other Spaniard in the world. In the end, it was not to be for Spain (again!), but that was it. I was a man possessed.
Side note – the UK should have won. Miles ahead of anything else that year!

For years, I lived the whole experience remotely, through the TV. Every year I promised myself that I would actually do it and travel to experience the contest live but for one reason or another that never actually came to fruition until Oslo. And for that, 2010 will always be dear to me. It was the first, and since then I have made the host city my place of yearly pilgrimage. Each one of Oslo, Dusseldorf, Baku, Malmo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Stockholm and Kyiv have been very special for one reason or another. Songs, friends, culture, friends, travelling, friends, partying, friends. It’s all a big family. It’s cliché as it comes, but it’s true. Eurovision brings together a fantastic lot who make the experience even more magical.

Why is Eurovision special to you?

Music, travel, competition, friends. It mixes all the things I like the most in life!
Through the music I have been able to discover a bit about the culture of the many countries participating, I’ve tried to explore a bit of what each of the artists (ok, not all, but some of them!) produce outside or the Euroverse and have, therefore, been able to understand (I hope!) more of the culture of various countries.
But it has also allowed me to travel to many places I would have never imagined possible (let’s face it, no one really has Baku in their bucket list!) for the contest, but also for national finals, pre-parties and just generally visiting friends. From a weekend in Iceland, to the Eurovision cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn, to Stockholm for MelFest one too many times, I have been fortunate enough to follow a lot of Eurovision-related events all over the continent.
Being an incredibly competitive person, the fact that so many countries are constantly trying to reinvent the magic formula to succeed in the contest is magical.
And, finally, friends. Eurovision has allowed me to meet a great amount of incredible people, from all parts of the world and all walks of life, each and every one of them with a story to tell, a dream to pursue and a common love for the contest. What’s not to like?!

What attracted you to ESCXTRA?

Well, as one of the original members it would have to be inertia? Joking, of course! When we decided to part ways from our previous website we all, of course, had the choice to stay behind or move forward. For me, the people leaving were the ones I clicked with the most, the ones I enjoyed doing this with the most, whose style adapted better to mine… and, ultimately, the ones I am more than happy to sit down for a pint to chat about Eurovision and beyond, who have become good friends and who I consider part of my closest Eurovision family.

And finally, your top 5 Eurovision songs of all-time?

No, just no. To begin with, I already have a hard time selecting between all the timeless ballads this contest has produced. Then add the ones I love for dancing. And the piss-takes. 5 is way too few! But if I had to (and I’m sure I’m going to go to bed tonight thinking of all the songs I unfairly left out!), I would say:
*** I am leaving way too many Spanish, French and Italian songs out, but most of what these three countries have ever sent would deserve an honorary mention in my books ***
5. Raphael – Hablemos Del Amor (Spain 1967)
4. Doris Dragović – Željo moja (Yugoslavia 1986)
3. Natasha St-Pier – Je N’ai Que Mon Âme (France 2001)
2. Mørland and Debrah Scarlet – A Monster Like Me (Norway 2015)

1. Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois (Portugal 2017)

This was harder than I thought… but the top spot has to go to Salvador, who brought pure poetry to the Eurovision stage. The lyrics, the music, the simplicity, the quirkiness… the beauty! I was fantastic to have been able to experience such an emotional moment live, and witnessing, only for the second time ever (Euphoria being the other one), my favourite actually winning the whole thing.
Stay tuned for the next part in our Meet the ESCXTRA team series. On Tuesday we will meet Dimitris! Remember you can share your Eurovision stories with us in the comments section below or via the comments sections on our Facebook page @ESCXTRA. We would love to hear them!

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