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Monday, August 18, 2008


The Tango King Dispute

Carlos Gardel * Sally Potter and The Tango Lesson

Amusing, to us perhaps. To tango lovers in Latin America it is not so. And, therefore, the heated arguments between Uruguay and Argentina over the right to claim the late Carlos Gardel as a native son are taken very seriously.

Gardel and his suave good looks, stylish clothes, and melodious voice remain alive in the hearts of many people in Latin America long after his death in 1935 in a plane crash. However, until recent claim by Uruguay that Gardel was born in Tacuarembo, Uruguay, no one disputed that Gardel was Argentinian.

Daniel Schweimler, BBC News, wrote:

He was an early playboy, an international superstar who came to a tragic and premature end in a plane crash in Colombia in 1935. Gardel is to Argentina what Frank Sinatra is to the United States or Edith Piaf is to France.

So while driving through northern Uruguay recently, I had to take a second look when I saw a sign pointing to Carlos Gardel's birthplace and museum.

How cheeky can you get? It is like Canadians saying that Sinatra was not really born in Hoboken, New Jersey, but in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Or the British claiming that Edith Piaf really hailed from Basingstoke in southern England.

Gardel is as Argentine as a big lump of juicy steak being barbequed by gauchos out on the pampas. But not according to the Uruguayans, and they have the evidence to prove it - or so they say.

Hope the Uruguayans and Argentinians will come to an amicable settlement and continue to excel in the tango. These days, from what we see of dance competitions on television there seems to be too much improvisation, and showmanship that borders on circus acts -- a far cry from the elegant, fluid tango of Carlos Gardel's era. For classical tango, watch Sally Potter's black and white film The Tango Lesson (1997). Marvellous.

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