Norberto Regueira

"El Padre de Gardel" (Gardel’s father)

uan Carlos Esteban, Monique Ruffié and George Galopa come back to go deep into Carlos Gardel’s origins. The book has two clearly different sections. One which reunites a series of works that were published in different Internet forums and that, collected, allow those who are not within the universe of the Gardelian web to read it. The other directly studies the relationship that existed between Marie Berthe Gardes, Carlos Gardel’s mother, and Paul Jean Lasserre as from the data that point out the latter as supposed Carlos Gardel’s biological father. Both texts coincide in the concepts, justifying its joint release.

The authors are known. Their previous works about the family origins of Carlos Gardel and his mother Doña Berta became classics and are permanently quoted.

The book researches and answers with documents about the possible meeting of Doña Berta and Lasserre, the possible voyage of Lasserre to Buenos Aires and/or Lasserre’s visit to Buenos Aires when World War I was over.

Proa’s edition, under the firm leadership by Osvaldo Tamborra, is faultless.

Gardel’s filiation takes us back to a very difficult period for illegitimate children. Our Código Civil, in force since 1871, has about this issue a strong influence of the Catholic Church on the family model. For this Church marriage is a sacrament.

Hence, within marriage, everything; outside marriage, nothing. It was not enough being a son. To have rights you have to be born into the bosom of a marriage. Children born outside the marriage bonds were not legitimate. Because of that they did not possess rights and bore the stigma of being known as adulterine, incestuous or illegitimate children.

This legislation was in force in 1893 when Gardel arrived in Buenos Aires with his unmarried mother and it was only suppressed when democracy was restored in 1983. A century later and that is not a coincidence. María Eva Duarte —Evita— bore a similar stigma. Despite this antecedent, María Estela Martínez de Perón, in the position of president, vetoed a law that would put children on the same level regardless of their origin. It is not an unimportant information to understand the heavy burden implied by an “illegitimate” filiation.

Carlos Gardel was a victim of these prejudices and when the artist died, pitilessly were at stake his origin, Doña Berta’s motherhood and different paternities were attributed. These confabulations are essentially reactionary, all of them carry the same stigma of exclusion of children conceived outside marriage and, under the appearance of an inexistent certainty, reproduce the model of the illegitimate child as a problem or, with the same meaning, as a problematic child.

Thereafter in our country history, filiation was back onstage due to the painful episodes of identity suppression and substitution carried out by the military dictatorship and its agents.

As for Gardel himself and as for Gardel as symbol of so many others that were excluded, we are before a work that surpasses the references of the Gardelian universe it evokes.

Lastly, besides the analytical rigor of the document, the authors add some literary charming references of the level of Tuñón’s quality. Describing the events in which Lasserre took part, they poetically say: «Paul Jean Lasserre belonged to a gang of delinquents known in Paris as “The Ternes’ Band”. Such gang of Apaches worked by night and were specialized in burglary. Their thefts were mainly in liquor shops and stores in the neighborhood».

Because of this and more, the Ruffié, Galopa and Esteban’s graphomania is justified and and has its raison d’être.