Elías Wainer

Real name: Wainer, Elías Santiago
(28 September 1907 - n/d)
Place of birth:
Zárate (Buenos Aires) Argentina
Julio Nudler

is parents who had arrived from Russia, settled in Zárate which slowly was becoming an industrial center. His father, who had no definite trade, used to buy and sell any kind of objects.

The Wainers had three sons: Elías, José and Enrique. As José worked as a clerk in the Smithfield meat processing plant his family has a kind of outstanding position. Later Enrique also worked at the plant. Elías, instead, was an employee in the electric plant and also sold light bulbs for different shops.

The Jewish community of Zárate was divided in two: on one side were the progressive ones and on the other the religious ones. The former that belonged to the Scholem Aleijem society used to meet at the Wainer’s house avoiding contact with the orthodox members of the Zeru Babel group. Elías, that never frequented the circles of the community, was a gambler, a good dancer and married a very attractive girl that was not a Jew but both began to live in the family home.

Elías frequented an infamous barroom owned by the Mancusos where cheating gamblers and pimps were its regular customers because Zárate was a distribution center of prostitutes for the whorehouses of the whole area. People used to say that he was an aspiring pimp. And that could be inferred from his haughty figure and his inclination for drinking.

The relationship with his wife was gradually getting worse because he mistreated her until finally she forsook him and left with the only child they had. Since then he took to drinking heavily until he completely degraded himself and his life became aimless.

Somebody said that Elías used to sell tangos to survive and that when he got drunk he usually ended up in a jail. All his drama is expressed in “Frente a una copa”, a tango of 1949 with music by Francisco Amor who had been a vocalist in the Francisco Canaro orchestra. Osvaldo Pugliese recorded it in May that year with Alberto Morán, the vocalist capable of expressing best the suffering of that cornered character with no willpower.

Wainer recorded 22 pieces. Among them: “Sin historia”, 1955, with music by the singer Jorge Vidal who included it in his songbook. These lyrics speak about a man with no faith and woeful that «looking for his salvation, / by the side of a glass of an alcoholic beverage / dreams of his deceptions / while his years are piling up / like bags full of rancour». This was the reiterated description of his own anguish which wrote his name on a piece of paper almost hidden in the history of tango.