"Tourism and Exile: Mounting the Tango Show "For Export"

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“Tourism and Exile: Mounting the Tango Show “For Export”
Ana Cara

Oberlin College

Consider the following….

During my various fieldtrips to Buenos Aires, a valuable informant used to take it upon himself to indicate to me the old and current tango recordings, tango bars, tango performers and performances that he considered to be “for export.” Implicit in his classification was the existence of another category: a tango produced for personal, native or national consumption – a tango not intended for foreign travel or passing visitors, not created for profit or for tourists. Couched in his distinction was the presence of a more “modest,” more “intimate,” more “real,” more “authentic,” closer to the “soul,” carried in “the blood,” felt in the “heart” tango for native criollos. This tango criollo, he would say – in stark contrast to the stylized, highly profiled tango of the limelight, staged in glittery costumes and cabaret-like shows that circulate in Buenos Aires and abroad – spoke to the cognoscenti rather than the ignorantes.

From a 1912 article published in “El Diario” (Buenos Aires):

Just as we were all convinced that in Europe they didn’t

consider us ‘sauvage’ and that wheat, corn, and frozen

meats were proof in the Old World of the best exponents

of our civilization and our amazing progress, we received

the unexpected news several years ago that in Paris they

had learned about our existence not because of the valuable

products from the Argentine soil nor because of the articles

published by Mr. Eugenio Garzón in the ‘Figaro,’ but

because of the tango.

Sample filmography:

“Tango!” (1933) L.J. Moglia Barth. This is Argentina’s first sound film. The plot is essentially a pretext for the display of tango music and dance. A young man, abandoned by his woman, searches for her in Paris, where he succeeds as a tango star. However, he returns home to Buenos Aires, to his first love, and to a “criollo” tango.
“El tango en Broadway” (1934) L. Gasnier. An Argentine (Carlos Gardel) goes to Broadway, mounts a “criollo” tango show, becomes a success.
“Tango Bar” (1935) J. Reinhardt. An Argentine goes to Paris, mounts a tango show in which he sings about his Buenos Aires barrio, becomes a success.
“Tangos: El exilio de Gardel” (1985) F. Solanas. Tells the story of Argentine exiles in Paris who try to mount a tango show in order to “cure” their nostalgia for home.

A medley of tango lyrics:

Yo sé que aún te acuerdas del barrio perdido, I know you still remember the lost barrio

de aquel Buenos Aires que nos vio partir, of that Buenos Aires that saw us depart,

que en tus lasbios fríos aún tiemblan los tangos that on your cold lips still tremble the tangos

que en París cantabas antes de morir.” you used to sing in Paris before dying.

(La que murió en París, H.P. Blomberg, 1930)

Buenos Aires, cuando lejos me vi Buenos Aires, when I found myself far away

solo hallaba consuelo there was only solace

en las notas de un tango dulzón in the notes of a sweet tango

que lloraba el bandoneón. that the bandoneon wept.
(La canción de Buenos Aires, M. Romero, 1932)

Mi Buenos Aires querido, My dear Buenos Aires,

cuando yo te vuelva a ver once I see you again

no habrá mas pena ni olvido. there’ll be no more sadness and forgetting.

(Mi Buenos Aires querido, A. LePera, 1934)
La geografía de mi barrio llevo en mí, I carry in me the geography of my barrio,

Será por eso que del todo no me fui: maybe that’s why I never fully left:

(…) (..)

Ahora sé que la distancia no es real Now, I know that distance is not real

Y me descubro en ese punto cardinal and I discover myself in that cardinal point

Volviendo a la niñez desde la luz. returning to childhood from the light

Teniendo siempre el corazón mirando al sur… with my heart always facing south…
(El corazón al sur, E. Blázquez, 1975)

Que importara tanta nostalgia en tu pañuelo, Why worry about so much nostalgia in your handkerchief

Tanta neblina que en el tiempo se quemó so much mist burned away by time.

Hoy tu vuelta y nosotros cantaremos Today your return and we will sing,

Los tres como antes: Buenos Aires, vos y yo. the three together like before: Buenos Aires, you and me.
(Mi ciudad y mi gente, H. Negro, 1968)

From “History of the Tango,” Evaristo Carriego, (1930), by Jorge Luis Borges:

The tango may be discussed, and we discuss it, but it encloses,

as does everything that is truly real, a secret. Musical dictionaries

register their brief and full definition, approved by all. That definition

is elementary, and promises no difficulties, but the French or Spanish composer who, having trusted in it, correctly works out a ‘tango’

discovers not without chagrin, that he has put together something

that our ears don’t recognize, to which our memory offers no hospitality, and which our bodies rejects. That is to say that without the evenings

and nights of Buenos Aires, a tango cannot be made, and that in heaven there awaits for us Argentines the Platonic idea of the tango, its universal form (…)

From Playbill , Mark Hellinger Theatre, (New York), “Tango Argentino,” (1985), program notes:

Yet the tango is not a folk song, not a folk dance. It is

pure in both music and movement, with a surprising

wealth of choreographic vocabulary. This expressive,

descriptive music seeks to express a state of being. It’s

a question of the authenticity of the elements.

My abstract for this conference:

The emergence of tango, its criollo roots, and its worldwide circulation and success through tango shows offer a compelling example of “moving folklore.”
Nostalgia, ideology, utopia, fantasy, and tradition all come into play as exiles attempt to connect with a homeland and re-inscribe themselves elsewhere through the manipulation of expressive forms addressed to diverse audiences. The national imaginary is evoked and revoked in recreated and new performances abroad, charged with coded political energy and modeled to suit marketing tropes that threaten cultural stereotypes.
In parallel fashion, the tourist industry at home must lure the stranger to one’s place and display local culture in a packaged, consumable and digestible portion that both appeals to the outsider but does not betray the identity of a people. The “exotic” must also be “authentic.”
Whether a host or a guest, the ideas of home and place are altered in the dynamics of these relationships. Tourists and exiles, as well as the host culture, must therefore negotiate the notions of real and idealized sites through cultural enactments in which traditional culture and conceptions of folklore play central roles.
Among the questions considered: What is the role of the “outsider” in the production of aesthetic ecologies? How is “home” recreated and locality reproduced through the arts across political and spacial boundaries? How are stage and place aesthetically and politically reconciled? What is the relationship between cultural and economic currencies in the preservation of aesthetic ecologies? How are cultural “roots” kept alive away from the native land?

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