Antonio Rodríguez Villar

Tania: A beaming jingle bell

he was the synthesis —and the summa— of the Spanish popular wit and the Buenos Aires picaresque. From her land she brought that grace which she lavished in a torrent. Her years in Buenos Aires and her bohemian world gave her a cunning sharpness.

Her name will be forever linked to Discépolo's, the genial author, who lived with her his last 24 years.

But Tania —Ana Luciano Divis, that was her true name—, had her own life. She always had. She was beside herself with joy when she enthralled Enrique Santos Discépolo at the Folies Bergère, around 1927, by singing “Esta noche me emborracho”.

They belonged to worlds far apart. He was, then, somewhat shy and still under Armando´s shadow, his elder brother. She was a beaming jingle bell.

I frequented her the last years in her house on Callao street, where she lived with Discépolo. There we became friends. She had the generous wisdom of that one who knows much but does not show it. She knew the crevices of life, of an intense overflowing life. A life of happiness and sorrow, such as the time when her only daughter died, of whom she did not talk about, and her friends never asked about to avoid bringing back sad memories.

She was always as celebrating a party, happy, smart, coquettish, even when dressed in homely clothes. I never heard her talk with malice towards anyone. Of course, the oblivion from those memoryless ungrateful people who label friendship with a rated affection, hurt her. But she never mentioned it. Once, by chance, she commented: «You know, Tonito, Gordo (Fats- Aníbal Troilo) always said that it is worse to be ungrateful than being unfaithful...».

She was always updated. She wasn´t the old woman (can we refer to Tania using the word old woman?...) telling us of her past. Her remarks on our present time were so funny. She was eager to know —for example— why Carlos Menem had argued with Raúl Alfonsín or what was going to happen to Bill Clinton «because of that affair with a certain Monica...».

But the recurrent issue was Discépolo. It wasn't because she recalled him in her talks but because we, her friends, enjoyed ourselves with the charm of her stories, and especially the story of the beginning of their lives together.

Generally, we arrived at her house by sunset. She was waiting for us with some sandwiches and a glass of whisky which we repeated with her in spite of my wife's complaints. Before dinner, I asked her to sing a tango.

Singing was a physiological need for Tania. And she wonderfully did it, with a remarkable intonation. She sang with her voice, with her eyes, with her gestures, with her silences. She knew that tango unfolds a story which has to be told without shouting. She transmitted it word by word so producing that peculiar phrasing she measured out with the experience which only time teaches.

She lived making plans and trying to make them real!... Very recently she told me: «We have to organize a tour of Spain. I want to sing in Toledo,where I was born, and in Valencia, where I spent my early years. My nieces whom I love very much live there. But let us not forget about Paris...» After the tangos, it was time for dinner.

Her appetite was stunning. She never knew if her liver was part of her body and its metabolism. During dinner she turned back to revise her plans. «Don't you forget to phone Spain to get the tour ready».

To be a friend of Tania's was one of the privileges that life has given to me. They say she was 98 years old... maybe 105... Who cares? Tania was a myth and myths only have a present.