Elizabeth Maria De La Paz Lamadrid Yingling was nicknamed Titi at birth by her grandfather, Guillermo “Papito” Belt, who had wanted to name her Lisette. Or was it her father? Perhaps she gave the name to herself.
Titi would be the first to admit that sometimes she made things up. Regardless of its origin, the nickname stuck. Everyone who really knew Elizabeth called her Titi.
She died peacefully on Sept. 26, 2023 in her sanctuary — a tiny bedroom, covered inch by inch with art, in the Truro home she dedicated her life to. This room was entered only by those Elizabeth trusted most.
Born in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14, 1961 to Marilys and René Guillermo Lamadrid, she was the youngest of four children and the first born in the United States. Elizabeth’s grandfather, Guillermo, a career diplomat, had been governor of Havana, Cuba’s ambassador to the U.S. in the 1940s, and one of the drafters and signers of the United Nations charter.
With this social standing, her grandmother threw fabulous parties, inspiring Elizabeth’s passion for beauty. That household was the center of a close-knit, loving community.
In 1969, Elizabeth and her siblings moved with their mother and stepfather to Greenwich Village in New York City, where they joined a fertile scene of “happenings” and performance art. As a teenager, Elizabeth ran with the city’s coolest, including her friend Jean-Michel Basquiat. He and fellow artist Al Diaz called Elizabeth “Samo,” which later became their famous graffiti tag. She attracted artistic people. She saw their magic; they saw hers.
Elizabeth lived for nine months in the Venezuelan Amazon with the Yanomami tribe as part of an anthropological video project. There, her innate ability to connect and communicate flourished. Elizabeth’s loved ones claim “she spoke every language.” She seemed not to allow the laws of any one language to hinder her communication; she would understand, and she would be understood.
While in the rainforest, Elizabeth adopted an orphaned baby monkey. She named him Tucusito and brought him home. Elizabeth would later tell her oldest son, Guillermo, that “my first baby was a monkey, so I wasn’t at all surprised that you’re a monkey, too.” Later, she’d say to all of her children, “You’re half monkey, half crazy; you get the monkey from your mom, and the crazy from your dad.”
In 1979, Elizabeth moved to Provincetown. Attracted by the artists and lifestyles of the people she found here, she decided to make it her home. Elizabeth soon met her future husband, John Yinging, the owner of Spiritus Pizza. They moved to Truro in 1983, into a bustling farmhouse full of love.
Elizabeth claimed to have “the family of her dreams.” Her five children were born over a span of 22 years, and their their friendships and cohesiveness, despite age differences, is testimony to their mother’s love.
There are also smaller testimonies: countless treasures she took pleasure in sorting through. If Elizabeth connected with someone, she’d know what they were collecting and she would find them a gift at the Truro Swap Shop. If anyone else had gone looking, it may not have been there. She collected treasures and she collected people to give those treasures to. This, with family, was her great passion.
She had a fiercely independent spirit. She could find a silver lining, even in illness. Towards the end of her life, that silver lining was daily visits from loved ones, with children laughing and playing music all around her. Her message was to take care of each other and to take care of yourself.
Elizabeth’s entire life was art, from her bedroom wall masterpieces to the way she swooped her graying hair up with a pen, to the way she raised her children, with two hands guiding shoulders forward, to the way she cooked French fries, ripping supermarket paper bags to collect the grease.
Those who knew her won’t forget the way she got ready for a party, or picked through treasures, or admired a lemon cake, or danced to Latin music in the living room. She nurtured all, propagating plants intuitively and creating mystical spaces for children. Elizabeth, Titi, Mama, Amina; she lives on in her art, her treasures, and the hearts of her people.
Elizabeth is survived by her husband, John Yingling of Truro; children Guillermo Yingling of Wellfleet, Edwige Yingling and husband Zach Luster, Sophie Yingling, Monique Yingling, and Thor Yingling, all of Truro; grandchildren Violet and Hazel Yingling of Wellfleet and Aria, Layla, and Nora Luster of Truro; her mother, Marilys; her brothers, Billy René and Juan Fernando; her sister, María; and countless friends and family members.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Elizabeth’s name can be made to the Dexter Keezer Fund of Truro or Cape Cod Mass Appeal.
A celebration of her life is planned for November.