By Joshua Jay - Tuesday, March 30, 2021
I first met Ernesto Melero when I performed in Venezuela, nearly fifteen years ago. It was one of those surreal encounters where I spent hours across the table with a man I couldn’t communicate with. I spoke no Spanish at the time, and he spoke no English. The only thing we had in common was our passion for playing cards.
What I saw that day I haven’t forgotten: Ernesto wasn’t just extremely gifted technically: he was innovative in ways I hadn’t seen before. His methods were bold, direct, yet way outside the box. It’s a cliche but also one of the things I appreciate most about magic: it transcends the language barrier.
I published a handful of Ernesto’s material in MAGIC Magazine around that time, and then, like so many other encounters on the road, Ernesto receded into my memory. I didn’t hear anything else about him.
In 2016 I began to hear about atrocities in Venezuela. The colorful, breezy country I had visited years before had become a nation held hostage by its government: famine, riots, fires–I had reached out to several friends there. One of them relocated to Colombia. Another was waiting things out in Brazil. But I didn’t know about Ernesto.
In 2020 we held our first Retreat, a gathering for an elite group of magicians, in Costa Rica. I was informed that my old pal, Ernesto, had been able to get out of Venezuela and start a new life in a remote town in Costa Rica. We immediately arranged for him to be our guest at The Retreat.
We exchanged hugs when he arrived. His hair was shorter, but otherwise he looked the same. Except...now he spoke English! He taught himself enough English to perform in both languages. And studying English wasn’t the only thing he was up to. As we would see over the weekend, he had spent the ensuing decade perfecting a host of new, amazing magic. Named-card effects, sandwich magic, visual card material. But most of all, he knocked us out with a WILDLY clever Linking Rings routine. At a certain moment in the routine, Ernesto caused rings to melt apart in a way that fooled EVERYBODY, especially those well-versed in ring material. He had a new wrinkle on an old idea, and it was sensational.
After his performance at The Retreat I spoke candidly with Ernesto, and learned of the hardships he still faced. In rural Costa Rica his prospects for earning money were poor. Worse, his wife and children were still trapped in Venezuela, where they lived in fear for their safety, unsure of where each meal would come from. He was far away from them, trying to save enough money to get them out.
“How much would that cost?” I asked. The amount of money he mentioned wasn’t small, but it was also an amount that a small number of people could put together without much fuss. That evening, we (as organizers of The Retreat) appealed to the good nature of our guests and explained the situation. We explained Ernesto’s predicament, and that the only thing separating him from his wife and children–from a new life they could rebuild in a safer place–was about $2500. We mentioned that we would take donations in whatever form people could offer. And within half an hour, we had not only funded their plane tickets, but also amassed enough money for them to rent a new place to live for their new lives.
When we informed Ernesto that he needed to call his family so they could start packing, he began to cry. Which caused us, on the team, to cry. A group of magicians, united in their interests, were able to help a fellow practitioner in need.
I’m pleased to tell you that Ernesto and his family are doing great! They now live together and are in the process of building their new home.
I’m also delighted to tell you that he is releasing his outstanding Linking Rings routine with us, and you can watch it in the trailer below.
I would say that proceeds of this trick go to a good cause, but I think, if you’ve read this far, you know that to be true. Ernesto is a treasure in magic, and we’re proud to partner with him on this incredible release. Knowing his story won’t affect your performance of Linking Rings. But it might fill in the details of the clever mind who created it.
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