Vicente Madero

Real name: Madero Álzaga, Héctor Vicente
(6 December 1884 - 24 May 1946)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
José Gobello
| Néstor Pinsón

hen tango began to be danced, it not only took place in the outskirts of town, at dirty venues or infamous whorehouses. At the same time the boys with distinguished family names, the ones with rebellious temper, practiced the steps of the new dance in their luxurious mansions, but indoors, secretly, as if they were members of a new sect.

Examples are, among others, two movies: Así es la vida, directed by Francisco Mugica (1939) and Historia del 900, directed by Hugo Del Carril (1949).

Our friend, the collector and contributor Héctor Lucci, who spent all his life in Palermo, a few yards from Santa Fe Avenue, said that he got most of his records, piano rolls, cylinders, sheet music and music players of all kinds from the descendants of those rich boys at those majestic estates now wrecked like their pockets.

Fuente: Caras y Caretas, nº 1.064, 22/2/1919, página 39.

Vicente was son of Cayetana Álzaga (owner of the farmhouse La Fortuna in San Vicente, province of Buenos Aires) and of Francisco Domingo Madero. His grandfather, Francisco Bernabé, was founder of the then town of Maipú in the province of Buenos Aires and vice-president of the nation during the first presidency of the General Julio Argentino Roca (1880-1886).

The writer Victoria Ocampo has recalled in her testimonies: «It came the time when every Thursday, come rain or come shine, Osvaldo Fresedo, aka El Pibe de La Paternal, entered the house and we danced to tango music all the afternoon. The champions of those memorable days were Ricardo Güiraldes (author of the novel Don Segundo Sombra), still not well-known, but we, his friends, guessed he would reach an outstanding recognition, and Vicente Madero, a genius in the subject, and I don’t think that anyone has succeeded in surpassing him. When he walked to the tango beat, all his body which seemed to be still, elastically followed the rhythm, enjoyed it, communicated it to his dancing partner who infected with it, obeyed that perfect and adjusted walking. Both were perfect dancers».

When did these tango sessions take place? Undoubtedly, after 1913, year when the Sociedad Sportiva —presided by Antonio De Marchi— organized the well-known contest at the Palace Theatre in which Madero was member of the board along with Daniel Videla Dorna and the musician Antonio Chimenti. The chairman was another musician, the pianist and composer Julián Aguirre, founder of the Escuela Argentina de Música (Argentine School of Music).

And before 1920 when Madero used to frequent the Parisian cabarets, including the Princesse, where he took Manuel Pizarro to dance and whose owner, Elio Volterra, was persuaded by him to change its name and so it was later called El Garrón.

Gardel arrived in Paris for the first time, on Pizarro’s advice, in 1928. By that time Madero, if he had not yet refrained his longing for faraway lands he was about to do it, because between 1930 and 1946, year of his death, he worked as pro-secretary of the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation.

Vicente was a jailaife (Argentine jargon for high life). Dark-haired, tall, slim, he used to wear dark suits and black ties. He used to manufacture his own gomina (hair gel made of Alquitira rubber) and after applying it he fastened his hair with a towel or a stocking so that it would stay quite flat. He was so stylish that he made to polish the soles of his boots in order to the fact that they would shine when he crossed his legs. His daughter Malú Madero de Fernández Ocampo told me this. Then I asked her about the way his father danced tango. She replied:

«Without firuletes (choreographic embellishments), tango has to be walked. When he taught me dancing he used to tell me: You have to take long strides. And a man has to know how to hold a woman. That was an elegant, refined, aristocratic dancing.

«We can say that a popular dancing trend was the one mainly represented by El Cachafaz. Between one and the other, so different, was born the inclination of all the others, like Bernabé Simarra, Güiraldes, Enrique Saborido, the actors César Ratti and Elías Alippi, Francisco Ducasse, El Mocho, El Tarila and, why not the caricatures from Rodolfo Valentino to Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in the movies?»

The new neighborhood in our city —almost resting on the River Plate—, the most modern and which still shows vacant lots, was named Puerto Madero not after Vicente, a bon vivant in his time that only had some public office jobs thanks to his family position, but after a cousin of his, Eduardo, a merchant and executive of the Chamber of Commerce in Buenos Aires, who was commissioned to be in charge of the plans of a port that, hardly, existed in the city.