Domingo Santa Cruz

Real name: Santa Cruz, Domingo
Nicknames: El Rengo
Bandoneonist, leader and composer
(20 December 1884 - 5 August 1931)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Juan Silbido

e was born in the neighborhood of El Once of our capital. His father don José Santa Cruz fought in Paraguay, and later worked in the Ferrocarril Oeste (West Railroad) as chief. He used to fill his leisure time by playing music with a small bandoneon that he owned. Domingo, still a child, took advantage of his absences and, entranced, he held the bellows and out of it he achieved sleepy phrases.

As for formal musical training, in fact, he had none. For him it was enough a sensitive vocation and a strong will.

At age fifteen he had an accident. Its details were published in La Prensa (May 23, 1900): «When he was an employee in the F.C.O. when trying to close the door of a warehouse, a thick iron bar fell on him, it broke his left leg, and also it caused lesions in his head and face». He walked with a certain limp and it was the reason for his nickname El Rengo.

He began as composer in 1904, dedicating to the political caudillo Aparicio the tango “Unión Cívica”. It was transcribed into music notes by the author of “Venus”, Alfredo Bevilacqua, because Domingo ignored the musical writing.

We transcribe from The History of tango (Héctor Bates and Luis Bates): «Back in 1905 he succeeded in the most popular cafés in Barracas and La Boca; let's remember Baldomero's. He was one of those who first came downtown with tango. He was a wonderful player with an amazing dexterity. He was the creator of the variations in bandoneon».

His brother Juan, a veteran pianist that always accompanied him, shows us a curious receipt which we transcribe textually: «Factory of guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments run by Francisco Núñez - 1620 - 28 Cuyo Street. I collected from Mr. Domingo Santa Cruz the sum of $ 180 for a 71-note bandoneon.
September 24, 1910».

That same year of the Centennial the quartet lined up by: Domingo Santa Cruz (bandoneon), Juan Santa Cruz (piano), Carlos Hernani Macchi (flute) and Julio Orioli (violin) performed at the café La Morocha (Corrientes and Carril, SW corner).

In 1913, they appeared at the café Atenas (Santa Fe and Canning). Then Alcides Palavecino (violin) replaced Julio Orioli.

A great number of students and skilled dancers converged to the popular academy that the Santa Cruz brothers run. The picturesque advertising printing that we transcribe will illustrate with its expressive text to the reader:

«Great tango and waltz contest that will be held in the last three days: 14, 15 and 16 of July 1914 —from 10 to 12 p.m. at the famous Academy of popular dances “Santa Cruz” 1150 — Gazcón Street — 1150 Big prizes will be distributed, among them a tailor-made suit with a value of $50 that it will be made to order in big tailor's shop run by Pascual Altomonte and son, 3615 Corrientes St. The orchestra will be conducted by the professors Domingo Santa Cruz and Juan Santa Cruz. With a great repertoire of new tangos in the competition nights».

Domingo Santa Cruz didn't leave recorded work; about this we found out that the Tagini company was not able to satisfy his demands on the issue.

Let us mention a successful trip of the quartet to the neighboring riverbank. In 1916, for a couple of months they appeared at the café Tupí Nambá of Montevideo with the following musicians: Domingo Santa Cruz and Manuel Firpo (bandoneons), Juan Santa Cruz (piano) and Luciano Ríos (guitar).

Bonds of sincere friendship united the Santa Cruz brothers with two renowned bandoneonists. One of them the composer of “La payanca” and “Don Esteban”: Augusto Pedro Berto. The other, Domingo's beloved alumnus, nothing less than Juan Maglio, the unforgettable “Pacho”, author of “Armenonville”.

Still young, Domingo noticed certain decline in his health, although of moderate habits he was a heavy smoker. He had to interrupt his musical tasks and had to undergo an operation because he had an intestinal tumor; later on he was sent to the Tornú hospital. By that time we summarize a comment that appeared in Última Hora (Sunday, July 19, 1931):

«The afflicting state of the musician Domingo Santa Cruz has determined a solidary gesture in his favor. For eight days the following artists will appear for free on certain radio station: Ignacio Corsini, Ruiz-Torres, Acuña-Díaz, Ada and Adhelma Falcón, Anita Palmero, Virginia Vera, Parada-Gómez-Vila, the orchestras led by Canaro, Julio De Caro (who arrives on the 23th from Europe), Francisco Lomuto, Ricardo Brignolo, Ernesto de la Cruz, Edgardo Donato, Rosario Granados, Juan Maglio...»

A moving attitude the show business milieu showed with this generous assistance to the aching colleague.

Complications took place in his health state, worsened by a bronchopneumonia, and he died in the mentioned hospital the dawn of August 5, 1931.

His work as composer is expressed in the following titles: the tangos “Unión Cívica”, “Hernani”, “El viejo”, “Una deuda”, “Hogar deshecho”, “Pirovano”, “A mi zaino” and “La siesta del bohemio” (the last piece he wrote, with lyrics by Daniel López Barreto); the polkas: “Amelia” (we have read that when it was played it meant the beginning of dancing in the house of María “la vasca”. The building of that venue is still on the street Carlos Calvo almost at the corner with Jujuy), “Recuerdos” and “Evocación al pasado”; “La indiada” (estilo criollo) and “Los cazadores” (march).

Published in the book: Evocación del tango, by Juan Silbido, Buenos Aires, 1964.