Néstor Pinsón

The true name and date of birth of Charlo

s singer, he had extraordinary skills. He performed and wrote beautiful themes. He was extremely handsome and enjoyed an early success —about 1100 recordings— throughout his long life. This is out of question, and will not be dealt here.

However, some Uruguayan friends of mine gave me a copy of the singer's handwritten birth certificate and after reading it with certain difficulty, two interesting questions showed up: his true name and date of birth.

Was Charlo's last name De la Riestra?. Looking in my library, I found five tango researchers – there could be many more – who agree that his name was CARLOS JOSÉ PÉREZ DE LA RIESTRA. Save in Ferrer´s book, all others have renamed him, in the alphabetical list, as JUAN CARLOS. But, his father had registered him, in the birth certificate, as CARLOS JOSÉ PÉREZ. The registrar wrote "before me there appeared a person who claims to be CARLOS FIDEL PEREZ, 28 years old, son of JOSE PÉREZ and IGNACIA BARRIENTOS". His wife – Charlo's mother – appeared as TERESA URDINOLA, 33 years old. So, where does De La Riestra come from? Pérez De La Riestra are not two surnames but only one compound surname. It would not be reasonable to believe that Charlo's father had registered his son only as Perez since that would have been too much of a humble attitude. That birth certificate also showed the name of the artist's grandfather.

All those who knew and admired Charlo told that he liked to boast – take this word as an euphemism. However there was nothing wrong and it was actually a common practice for a person to change —either at his own will or at somebody else's suggestion, a simple into a compound surname which would certainly sound better and be more in accordance with the character he developed around his artistic skills. In some of his first records it appeared written Carlos J. Perez. Also, in some of his first scores, for example, "Santa Lucía" —a tango for piano— published by A. Perrotti, in 1922, the author's name appeared as Carlos J. Pérez (Charlo).

So, the question is: Was he in his youth as humble as his father so as not to use his compound surname and then use it when he became famous?. Hard to believe. Even if the surname De La Riestra may appear in some identity document, I think that what counts is the birth certificate and until due evidence to the contrary is given, we must conclude that Charlo's last name was not De La Riestra.

Before dealing with Charlo's date of birth, let me make some guessing. All artists —and Charlo actually was— have been always praised by the media. I have always read and heard people say that Charlo came from an "aristocratic" family, that his father owned a farm or managed a farm for the wariest. His father may well have worked on a farm —and this is not a discredit— until Charlo was about one. This is what his father reported in the birth certificate: that he had domicile in Puan and was a businessman.

Said information —domicile and occupation— may have been of course mere formalities to have the child registered with the consent of the authorities. Nobody knows for certain. However, none of this will change in the least his artistic career.

After reading those who wrote about Charlo and gathering information, there is no doubt that the farm where he was born was La Piedad, located in the Province of La Pampa, between Guatraché and Avestruz railway stations, closer to the latter.

The point here is to ascertain his exact date of birth. Two of the works consulted (the original by José Barcia and the other one, virtually a literal copy of it) affirm that he was born on June 6, 1907.

For the magazines "Cien años con el tango 1880 - 1980" (A Hundred Years with Tango 1880 - 1980) published by Perfil, his date of birth is July 6, 1907. In Ferrer´s book, such date is June 6, 1907. And finally, there is other date, possibly informed by Charlo himself: July 6, 1906. Such date may be the date appearing on Charlo´s identity document. But the birth certificate reads: "...on the seventh day of July of the immediately preceding year..." and therefore there should be no doubt that he was born on July 7th, not July 6th.

The question here is the year. The acting Registrar may have been qualified to act as such but his writing skills were in fact quite poor. Moreover, in those times there were not many opportunities to practice writing skills since events such as that were not usual in cities with few population. Such original document bears, save errors or omissions, the exact time: Nine A.M. However, at the right bottom of the document, either following a regular practice or to save an omission, there appear the following numbers: 6/7/06. The common sense tells us that such is the date on which the document was executed. Therefore, this may be the reason why such was the date appearing on Charlo´s identity card.

Many times I read and heard that his late registration was due to natural distance reasons. But, how late? This question is answered reading the birth certificate: "...July 7th of the immediately preceding year...". If the date appearing at the bottom, i.e. 6/7/06 is the registration date, then the exact date of birth is July 7, 1905. Such date at the bottom may well be taken as his date of birth, written there for a quick reading or to save any mistake or omission in the document. This would be too far-fetched because if so, nobody would know the date on which the document was drawn and it should be concluded that the one who wrote such date made a mistake and wrote a six instead of a seven. Unlikely to believe.

That conclusion would entail that Charlo's father registered his son exactly one day before the first anniversary of his birth.

CONCLUSION: Until evidence to the contrary is furnished, Charlo's name was CARLOS JOSÉ PÉREZ URDINOLA and his date of birth was July 7, 1905.

(I appreciate Mr. Vicente Curatelly´s cooperation).

Transcription of the Birth Certificate.

Brackets have been inserted by me. Unquoted text does not alter the essence of this document.

"Number thirty four. In Puán, jurisdiction of the Province of Buenos Aires (illegible text), at Nine A.M. before me, Lucio G... (illegible surname), in my capacity as Registrar, there appeared Carlos Fidel Pérez, twenty eight years old, married, Argentinean, businessman, domiciled in this town, and stated: That on the seventh day of July of the immediately preceding year, at twelve noon (?) a boy had been born at his domicile, as acknowledged by the certificate issued by the justice of the peace, that such boy had been named CARLOS JOSÉ, legitimate son of the appearing party and his wife TERESA URDINOLA, thirty three years old, Argentinean, with the same domicile as him, that his wife was the daughter of JORGE URDINOLA and JULIANA FRESDENOSO (or Fresdenolo) and that the appearing party was the son of JOSE PEREZ and IGNACIA BARRIENTOS.

Having these presents been read, the appearing party and the witnesses GERMÁN WESNER, fifty two years old, German, and RODOLFO RIESIN, twenty five years old, single, both domiciled in this city, sign before me."

There appear at the bottom the signatures of the appearing party, both witnesses and finally the Civil Registrar.

On the left margin there appears a seal of which it can only be read: "Civil Registry" and " Puán". On the top right margin, there reads: CARLOS JOSÉ PÉREZ. At the bottom there appear the numbers: 6/7/06.

On the back of the document a seal reads that the copy was issued on August 9, 1979 by the Provincial Board for the Registry of Persons, Filing, Status and Capacity Division, La Plata.