Néstor Pinsón

e was the creator of the sainete (one-act farce) in Argentina. A kind of theater play generally known as género chico. In the dictionary is defined as: a light dramatic theater play with humorous cast of popular characteristics.

He was not one of the glorious names in theater but he was deep in the heart of the people.

His oeuvre represents, in spite of its lightness, a faithful document of the period. About the time when the immigration flow forced the newly arrived people to live stacked, suffering with the difficulties of the language and the diversity of cultures, added to the despair of the present and the uncertainty of the future.

The heavy aspects of such a situation were exactly captured by Vaccarezza, but he also had the wit to stage them without their drama. His plays included the bad guys and the good ones, but when tragedy was near, because guns or knives were shown, the brave opponents gave over or somebody made them understand. The endings were always happy and romantic.

He was school partner of Armando Discépolo, a friendship that lasted for years. There was also an interesting coincidence, both focused their interest in the lodgers of tenements houses and conventillos, which were very humble lodgings occupied by people of different origins. It was the parade of poor immigrants that came looking for a better horizon, running away from wars and ethnic or ideological persecutions.

They were the «gallegos» (Galicians)(so were called in Argentina all the Spaniards notwithstanding their birthplace), the «tanos» (all Italians), the «rusos» (Russians)(name for all the Jews from any country) and the «turcos» (Turks) (everyone coming from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Arabian countries, with no distinction at all) and mixed among them, some porteños (unhabitants of Buenos Aires) of low class and other people from the provinces as immigrants as the foreigners.

His observation about these people was beyond description and study of habits, without pretending the profundity of drama; on the contrary, Armando Discépolo got to the bottom of their souls, inquired into the psyche of each one of them, with irony and deeply. He was regarded as the creator of the grotesque in Argentine theater.

Vaccarezza was a prolific author of tango lyrics, also zambas, estilos and rhythms alike that were included in the repertoires of male and female singers as of the 20s.

Like Luis César Amadori, Manuel Romero and Mario Battistella he reached song writing by means of theater, imposing his sainete, for which he found the suitable formula. Until radio appeared and even some years later, theater was the instrument to spread popular song. Either drama or comedy, always the plays included among their characters a singer or a young female singer. Most times they hired well-known names to attract the interest of audiences.

Carlos Gardel recorded 13 numbers of his: “La copa del olvido” (with music by Enrique Delfino, in 1921), “Otario que andás penando” (as well with Delfino, in 1932), “Adiós para siempre” (with Antonio Scatasso, 1925), “Adiós que te vaya bien (with Delfino, 1924), “Araca corazón” (Delfino, 1927), “Eche otra caña pulpero” (Delfino, 1923), “El carrerito” (with Raúl de los Hoyos, 1928), “El poncho del amor” (Scatasso, 1927), “Francesita” (Delfino, 1924), “No le digas que la quiero” (Delfino, 1924), “No me tires con la tapa de la olla” (Scatasso, 1926, based on the primitive tango with the same title), “Padre nuestro” (Delfino, 1923), “Talán talán” (Delfino, 1924).

Other interpreters sang “La canción” and “Botines viejos” (both with Juan de Dios Filiberto) and as well “Atorrante”, “Calle Corrientes”, “Julián Navarro” (with Francisco Canaro), “Pobre gringo” (together with Juan Caruso and music by Antonio Scatasso), “Muchachita porteña” (with Mariano Mores), among many others.

He worked on radio, either as a narrator, or as author of an amount of scripts for possibilities of different kinds.

He wrote poems, simple, without pretentions, but with great acclaim when he recited on radio and they were released as books with the following titles: La Biblia Gaucha, Dijo Martín Fierro and Cantos de la vida y de la tierra —and some other more— all of them criollos about country affairs, none of them with city material, to balance, because inside him there were at the same time either the city man or the country man.

He also carried out an intense union activity, either in ARGENTORES (Argentine Society of Authors), or in La casa del teatro. He was one of the first to engage in the struggle for getting the contribution of the owners of theaters, the author copyright. About that there were situations full of anecdotes that he used to gracefully tell.

He had two occupations before theater became his very rewarding way of living. He worked as furniture auctioneer, to what he called «Luis catre» style (Louis cot)(humorously alluding that they were of a much lower quality in comparison with the Louis Quinze and Louis Seize styles much in vogue then) and before he was 17, clerk at a court office. There he began, ridiculing the features of his older partners. His first play was born: El juzgado (The courthouse), staged in 1903 by a philodramatic group, among whom the young Carlos Perelli was (later a recognized actor married to the actress Milagros de la Vega).

It is said that he filed around 200 titles. Most them came and passed, notwithstanding a good response of the public, but others remained forever, even nurturing the Buenos Aires slang, because titles, phrases and words sprung out of his imagination were incorporated into our language.

In 1911, he won a contest at Pascual Carcavallo's Teatro Nacional that soon paid attention to him. It was with Los scruchantes (from lunfardo: a thief that uses violence to open doors or windows, furniture or safes.) Later we have to mention El cabo Rivero (adapted as a movie), Juancito de la Ribera (staged in the 60s by the singer Jorge Vidal), Lo que le pasó a Reynoso (adapted as screenplay), Cuando un pobre se divierte, Murió el sargento (also released as a motion picture) and above all these two: Tu cuna fue un conventillo (with a movie adaptation) and the unusual boom of El conventillo de La Paloma, that after its opening surpassed by far a thousand uninterrupted performances, but at the thousandth performance the actress in the role of La Doce Pesos decided to quit, because she had to find new paths for her career, and she was right. Her name was Libertad Lamarque.

We said that he found the formula for the sainete and here is an example. In the play La comparsa se despide (1932) when the character named Serpentina is giving an explanation of it to an American tourist:

Poca cosa:
un patio de conventiyo,
un italiano encargado,
un yoyega retobado,
una percanta, un vivillo.
Dos malevos de cuchillo,
un chamuyo,una pasión,
choques, celos, discusión,
desafío, puñalada,
aspamento, disparada
auxilio, cana y telón.

Y debajo de todo eso,
tan sencillo al parecer,
debe el sainete tener
rellenando su armazón
la humanidad,la emoción,
la alegría, los donaires
y el color de Buenos Aires
metido en el corazón.

A simple formula? But no one that turned to it got the same results, the same recognition. Vacarezza handled a picturesque lunfardo and made his characters say highly imaginative speeches for the public. The theater critic Jaime Potenze has said: «It is not a crazy idea to consider Vaccarezza, especially in his sainete vein, as the most popular author in the nation, to the extreme that regarding him as a classic does not seem to be an exaggeration».

To reaffirm his formula here goes this anecdote: He had a long argument with his friend José González Castillo about poem-writing issues. Finally the latter challenged him to write a sonnet in the shortest time and in front of him. Don Alberto did not cow and in a few minutes wrote:

Un soneto me manda hacer Castillo
y pa' poder zafar de este brete
en lugar de un soneto haré un sainete
que para mí es trabajo más sencillo.

La escena representa un conventillo,
personajes: un grébano amarrete,
un gallego que en todo se entromete,
una grela, dos taitas y un vivillo.

Se levanta el telón. Una disputa
se entabla entre el yoyega y el goruta
de la que saca el rana pa'l completo.

El guapo despreciao por la garaba
se arremanga pa'l final... viene la biaba...
¡y se acabó el sainete y el soneto!

And to show the facet of observer of the country man, but very near the boundaries of the outskirts of town, a man with wider freedom, more serene and philosopher-like, here come the Consejos del viejo Irala (Warningos of Old Irala, of 1936):

Todo cristiano al nacer
trai dos alforjas vacías
y la vida en sus porfías
solita se las enllena
poniendo en una las penas
y en otra las alegrías.
Y la virtú superior del hombre que tiene luces
es no perderse en los cruces
al repartirse las cargas
y tantiar que las amargas no pesen más que las dulces...
Nunca renegués de Dios
aunque dudes de que exista
no hagas lo del anarquista
que a Dios maldecía y luego
que un rayo dejó ciego
a Dios le pedía la vista.
Si algún amigo en la mala
necesita tus favores
no esperes a que mejore la situación que aqueja,
El que anda en huella pareja no necesita cuartiadores.
Mas nunca hagas las gauchadas
del comesario Romero
que soltaba los cuatreros
diciéndoles, sin empachos,
vayan a robar muchachos
que precisamos dinero.
Cuando a ser cantor te lleven
el gusto o la obligación
no te vandién de gritón
y ricordá en la largada
que la voz no vale nada
donde falta entonación.

And to end this portrayal, let us remember about Tu cuna fue un conventillo, the story of that other milonguita (chick) that one day left the room of her poor house, impressed by the city lights and never came back. The one that begins like this:

Era una paica papusa
retrechera y rantifusa,
que aguantaba la marruza
sin protestas hasta el fin.