Juan Carlos Esteban

Letter to the Director of the Museum-Prison of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego

r. Director of the Museum-Prison of Ushuaia

When on September 13, 2005 I visited the museum which many years ago was a penitentiary for second offenders and a military prison, I was able to verify that at the Ward Nº 4, the cell Nº 15 at the right side was designated as the place where Carlos Gardel had been confined.

In that prison, on the wall, are exhibited portraits and a writing excerpted from a book by Blas Matamoros which states that El Zorzal was jailed in the Ushuaia prison.

Without judging the intellectual quality of the author, I think that the story told to justify his confinement was written at a time when the biographical data of Gardel were uncertain, contradictory and when the legend prevailed.

Below I detail the elements that deny that fallacy:

1. In the 70s the first scientific biography was published. It was written by Miguel A. Morena in 1976 Historia artística de Carlos Gardel. It’s a work of a great moral probity and impartiality in its judgments.

On page 19 it confirms that he begins to be called Gardel, instead of Gardés to «achieve a better euphony» between 1910 and 1912.

2. In 1986 a biography is published in English about Carlos Gardel: his life, his music, his time by Simon Collier, professor of the University of Essex, England.

It is a work to be consulted, with a great professional rigor, which made our artist be included in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In its first edition in Spanish, on page 36, the change of family name of Gardés is acknowledged only in 1912.

3. Contemporarily, from Toulouse, France, Mr. José Félix reveals the first data taken from the municipal archives, as born on December 11, 1890 with the name of Charles Gardés.

4. In later works documents were found of his arrival in Buenos Aires as Charles Gardés, on March 11, 1893 on the steamboat Don Pedro, when he was two years old.

5. In 1897 there is record of Carlos Gardés as pupil in the Escuela Superior de Niñas Nº 1, at age 7, with mark 9.

6. In 1904 Carlos Gardés finishes his primary school at the Colegio San Estanislao, with mark 10 for all the subjects.

7. In September 1904 he quit his home and, is detained in Florencio Varela, as Carlos Gardés, age 14, French, typographer.

8. In 1906 Carlos Gardés dedicated a photo to a friend with his signature —Carlos Gardés—, which appears on page 26 of the book I wrote.

9. On January 30, 1913 his mother filed an order for the search of Carlos Gardés in the Policía Federal Argentina.

10. That same year he started a professional tour as Carlos Gardés in the early days of July and only he appears as Carlos Gardel on August 26, 1913 on the newspaper El Siglo, of Mercedes, province of Buenos Aires.

11. On October 24, 1915 he filed in the record of Migrations his nom de plume on his comeback from Brazil. That document is supposed to be apocryphal.

It’s quite unlikely, then, that C. Gardel was detained in Ushuaia and set free in 1907. If we pay attention to his hand writing, the signature on the famous card alluded by Matamoros has nothing to do with the one Gardel had recorded since he changed his family name. Neither with his signature on the warrant of arrest in 1904.

12. On October 8, 1920 he testifies at the Uruguayan Consulate, spontaneously, without birth certificate, to be born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay, and that he is named Carlos Gardel.

On November 4 he gets his Argentine Identity Card, that then it legally enables him before the Public Powers, the courts and the police. That is to say 15 years after his presumed identification as convict.

On February 15, 1923 he got his Certificate of Good Behavior. That would have been impossible had he been sentenced to prison in Ushuaia.

13. On March 7 that year he applied for the Argentine citizenship, an unimaginable thing according to the Law 7029/10, restrictive and rigorou