Juan Carlos La Madrid

Real name: La Madrid, Juan Carlos
Poet and lyricist
(30 October 1910 - 16 August 1985)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Luis Alposta

hen a man tells us he was «all the bad things we can imagine» he leaves us speechless and out of place; or, on the contrary, right on the spot because he displays important features of his personality within the reach of our hands, of our imagination or of our suspiciousness.

The first quality of La Madrid is: a triggering frankness, rarely common, that strikes the truth with his fists between one drink and another. The second one: he displayed himself and always shows himself with an authentic passion in everything he carries out («Oh, passion, little alley of my soul»).

This «underworld devourer» was a poet of «male verses» that carried inside the madness of a crowd, who was fascinating, brave and tumultuous like the sea he admired in the south with his «camera-eye» so many nights and so many early mornings. He frequented cheap barrooms and gambling dens and was friend of «workmen, fools and thieves», of tango men and street poets with whom he shared the tin counter and the adventurous pleasure of living.

He was born in the neighborhood of Flores («an area of magnolias and stars») on the same day that Miguel Hernández was born. The latter perhaps was the greatest poet of this century as he used to say.

«Later —he told me— I spent years and years struggling straight and without rest: I was a boxing rat, I worked training professionals for three pesos per round, singer and tango dancer, Shakespearean actor, journalist, literature teacher, book salesman and mechanic specialist, impresario, radio and TV program organizer of the highest level».

He was a man that never was lonely as long as he was in the company of «waiters, pickpockets and tough guys» with whom he reached a perfect dialogue in his coarse chat.

Nothing is artificial nor made up by this inhabitant of life. His Rosa Buenos Aires reaches in his oeuvre a prominent role and poems like El Mercado have a true anthological value due to its truthfulness, authenticity and testimonial intention.

With plenty of reasons this stout vital man wrote:

I’m a bounded scope,
a violence,
a fire spasm
in the middle of the poured music.

Undoubtedly, his blood warmth and his impetuosity of thought ran along his poems full of varied tonalities. Years ago he used to ask for: «Give me the far away blue», I claim for color...» Maybe because of that he thought in committing suicide when his blindness began ten years ago. But I, that used to share the friendly wine with this old Lama in his rare court of miracles, was sure then that he still had a long time to live. So much so that soon later we knew of another book of his: Los Visitantes de la Nada.

This mysterious Apollo, that also sang to his fatherland and the winds and lonesomeness of the South, had an avant-garde literary training (enrolled in the inventionism) but he definitely chooses porteñismo. About it he says: «I write making use of the lunfardo jargon because it is a language of the people that belongs to the good saying of my city and for that reason belongs to me like my loved ones, my hated ones, my poems, my past, my present and my future».

In the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo he occupied the armchair that is under the protection of Carlos Gardel; and it is important to state that as a tango wordsmith he has written lyrics like “Fugitiva” which is regarded as «a true milestone in the history of tango lyrics».

I see La Madrid like a man that is running towards death in this life but never putting aside his optimism and living at a rate of 25 hours a day.

From his poetic oeuvre, the following stand out: in 1958, Hombre Sumado. First Prize awarded by the Municipality of Buenos Aires and Faja de Honor by the SADE; and in 1981, Pequeña Rosa Lunfarda, Editorial Torres Agüero.

Excerpted from the book by Luis Alposta, Antología del Soneto Lunfardo, Editorial Corregidor, year 2007.