Gabino Coria Peñaloza

Real name: Coria Peñaloza, Gabino
Poet, lyricist and writer
(19 February 1895 - 31 October 1975)
Place of birth:
La Paz (Mendoza) Argentina
Álvaro Coria Peñaloza
| Ricardo García Blaya

e was born in the locality of La Paz, in the province of Mendoza, not in San Luis as it is usually written in some biographies. When he was a teenager, only 15 years old, he left home to go to Buenos Aires where he settled and began to publish his poems in several publications, among which the magazine Caras y Caretas stands out due to its importance.

Thereafter, many years later, and carrying on his shoulders the memory of his bohemian years when he frequented cheap cafes and shared tangos with Carlos Gardel, Quinquela Martín, Juan de Dios Filiberto, Luis Teisseire and other princes of the Buenos Aires night, in 1927 he went to the province of La Rioja and was based in the city of Chilecito.

Undoubtedly, among all his poems and lyrics, the tango “Caminito” is in a place of honor. It was composed in 1926 and presented that same year— at the song contest organized by the Municipality of Buenos Aires. It was awarded the first prize but José Gobello and Jorge Bossio, in their book, say that he was whistled by the audience.

«However, that same year Carlos Gardel recorded it with Ricardo and Barbieri on guitars. Since then it became, together with “El choclo”, “La cumparsita”, “A media luz” and “Adiós muchachos”, one of the most renowned tango worldwide. The following year Gardel recorded it again and also did it Ignacio Corsini and the Francisco Canaro Orchestra cut it as an instrumental». (Tangos, letras y letristas, volume 1, editorial Plus Ultra)

Horacio Ferrer sharply defines Gabino's fate in tango: «He was the perfect literary interpreter of the temperamental and formal contents that Juan de Dios Filiberto infused into the Buenos Aires song, taking into account the naive and light character of it».

The story that originated “Caminito” is a milestone and a key to understand his personality and his oeuvre. Here we shall transcribe a variant to the one already published in Todo Tango, excerpted from the page of the Diario Chilecito newspaper.

It is an interview to his grandson Álvaro, «that allows us to clear out interesting aspects, up to now scarcely known, of the amazing life of Don Gabino, no doubt, uncommon, which is closely linked to bohemia and art.

«In his early youth, Gabino, showed an evident inclination towards literature, especially prefering coplas, relaciones and poetry.

«In his daily job —at the beginning of the century— he worked as inspector of a tax collecting organism, and also as inspector of the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura. The need of traveling around the country brought him to La Rioja and he was deeply attracted to Chilecito.

«The tango “Caminito” made a profound impression on the feeling of thousands of people, in many countries and for over 80 uninterrupted years. It is the reason for different arguments at the time of guessing its origins. There are even people who, mistakenly, think it was inspired by a neighborhood of La Boca. There, as homage to the authors and the tango, there is a very well-known street with that name which has commemorative monuments, plaques and statues. But its true origin is quite far removed, either in time or in distance, in a simple but charming little town of the province of La Rioja, today the city of Olta.

«In his youth, in the early 1900s, don Gabino used to travel along the dusty roads among the towns of La Rioja. It was a time when traveling was an odyssey. By that time when you wanted to go from town to town you had to go on horseback or on a mule. Then one day, passing by Olta, Gabino was unable to continue his journey because a big flood did not allow him to go on. That year there were heavy rains that lasted many days forcing him to stay until the river would diminish its water volume.

«At that time social gatherings were frequent. Those were familiar parties in which people had fun innocently among music and comradeship. Gabino, a man with an artistic spirit, quite sensitive, saw that there was a concert piano. A piano that today is a historical instrument because it was known that it had been the first brought to the province. It was carried on a muleback through the mountain range from Chile, no less than a Steinway & Sons.

«Eager to listen to its sound, he asked if among the people there was anyone that was able to play piano. As no musician was there a young lady appeared to replace the absent player. Gabino was charmed by the natural grace of the lady and later, when he came to know her better, their friendship became a reciprocal love.

«The customs of that time would not allow a sudden relationship and even less if the man at issue was a stranger passing by. So theirs was a forbidden love and they had to meet hiddenly. Some days later the river waters were low, Gabino continued his trip and time passed by.

«Before his departure he had promised to his beloved girl he was going to return to pick her up. The following year, ready to face her parents, he came back to Olta.

«Regretfully, she had left town and what was worse it was that nobody knew where or did not like to tell him. But he finally came to know that she had left to an unknown destination and that she was pregnant. Gabino, sadly, had to leave because her family did not say anything to him and rejected him. Time later, in the city of Villa Mercedes, San Luis, disconsolate and with a deep pain in his soul of poet he wrote the poem that later became “Caminito”. The saddest story of his life turned out a gift to mankind as simple, humble lines sung by the most beautiful voices».

It would be hard to detail his complete oeuvre, so we highlight his most important ones. With Filiberto, besides “Caminito”, he wrote the tangos: “El besito”, “El pañuelito”, whose lines date back to 1920 and were written to a previous music composed by Filiberto in 1917 and to which Eduardo Facio Hebequer had added words and entitled it “La planchadorcita” which the musician rejected; “La cartita”, “La Vuelta de Rocha”, “El ramito” (in collaboration with Teisseire) and the zamba “La tacuarita”.

With Juan Carlos Moreno González, the tangos: “Margaritas”, recorded by Gardel and, many years later, by Nelly Omar who was awarded the Gran Premio de Honor of the Six Contest organized by Max Glücksmann at the Palace Theatre in 1929 and “Mi casita”, with no recordings.

The poet Gabino published three books: El profeta indio, Cantares and La canción de mis canciones. They include ideas about spirituality quite advanced for the time in which they were written and at the same time they are incredibly updated.

Back to the book by Gobello-Bossio, its authors tell us: «In 1959 when Mr. Hernán Giralt was mayor the name Caminito —as homage to the tango—, was given to an alley in La Boca —a hundred curved meters from Garibaldi and Lamadrid to Pedro de Mendoza—, in front of La Vuelta de Rocha. That street has become a museum and an attractive place for tourists. Coria Peñaloza did not approve of the homage because he stated that the little road that inspired his lyrics is another one».

After and intense and troubled life in the Big City (Buenos Aires), Gabino decided to move to Chilecito (La Rioja) with his wife where he lived for over 40 years. He was always enamored of the landscape and close to the foot of the everlasting snows of the Famatina peaks. Death caught him five years before his hundredth birthday, surrounded by poems, nostalgic rhymes and rose plants under the blue skies of October in Chilecito.

Lastly, an almost existential reflection made as a question without answer: How would Gabino manage to recover from the pain of knowing he was the father of a child, born out of love, that he was never able to meet?

Since she went away she never returned
My little friendly road, I´m going away too.