Ricardo García Blaya

Women according to Cadícamo

f there is a difficult issue, almost unfathomable in tango lyrics and in so many other things, it is the feminine universe and, as it could not have been in a different way, there are quite many works about it. When I decided to analyze the subject, I began to explore the titles which had a name or the nickname of a woman and I was astonished with the enormous number I found.

Firstly, I checked the database of recorded renditions in my collection; later, I did the same with the sheet music copies of pieces that were not committed to disc. Also I revised, mentally, those titles which, despite they do not mention women, talk about them in their lyrics and even, in some cases, not even say their names in their lines. In sum, we have before us a topic with thousands of numbers.

Then I decided to exclusively take into consideration those tangos with a title containing a name or a nickname and to postpone also, for another occasion, waltzes and the remaining beats of the genre. Anyway, when I started my task and went deeper into the different edges of the issue, I came to the conclusion that it widely exceeded the space expected for an article on the website.

In fact, under this label concerning women we are dealing with something very complex as it is the relationship between man and woman and, from that point of departure, we go to the universal and timeless problem of passion and unrequited love, love and its loss. Undoubtedly, it is one of the concerns most frequently approached in tango poetry.

Due to what was said above, I decided to simplify the abundant offer by reviewing lyrics of only one author, Enrique Cadícamo. And, as point of departure, I pick up a tango of his that, against what was planned, does not bear in its title any woman’s name and, furthermore, talks about a woman without naming her and, as if this were not enough, has a plot strange for the genre due to the aristocratic environment in which the characters are placed. I am talking about “La casita de mis viejos”, tango by Juan Carlos Cobián and Enrique Cadícamo, which tells us about the return of a “well-to-do boy” to his paternal home.

las mujeres siempre son
las que matan la ilusión.

And later:

Pobre viejita la encontré
enfermita; yo le hablé
y me miró con unos ojos...
Con esos ojos
nublados por el llanto
como diciéndome por qué tardaste tanto...
Ya nunca más he de partir
y a su lado he de sentir
el calor de un gran cariño...
Sólo una madre nos perdona en esta vida,
es la única verdad,
es mentira lo demás.

(“La casita de mis viejos”, music by Juan Carlos Cobián)

Here the conceptual extremes that tango has about women are evident. The girl entices the man but, finally, rejects him because she chooses an easy living, a life with luxuries and pleasures, and its antithesis, the little old woman (his mother), a woman who is always good and sacred that comforts him in his disgrace with her sublime affection. Between both, tens of overtones and combinations.

I will start with the successful milongueritas that arouse passion in men due to their beauty and personality:

Milonguerita linda, papusa y breva,
con ojos picarescos de pippermint,
de parla afranchutada, pinta maleva
y boca pecadora color carmín,
engrupen tus alhajas en la milonga
con regio faroleo brillanteril
y al bailar esos tangos de meta y ponga
volvés otario al vivo y al rana gil.

(“Che papusa oí”, music by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez)

The poet, even though he warns her about the ephemeral nature of her triumphs —«mañana te quiero ver» (tomorrow I’ll see what you’ve got)— and subtly reminds her that she has come from the outskirts, addresses the “papusa” with kindness, warmly. Somehow, it is implied his admiration and, why not?, his love for her.

Something similar happens in:

Triunfa tu gracia, yo sé,
y en los fondines nocheros
sos de los muebles diqueros
el que da más relumbrón.
Despilfarrás tentación,
pero también, callejera,
cuando estés vieja y fulera
tendrás muerto el corazón.

Seguí nomás, deslizá
tus abriles por la vida,
fascinada y engrupida
por las luces del Pigall,
que cuando empiece a tallar
el invierno de tu vida
notarás arrepentida
que has vivido un carnaval.

(“Callejera”, music by Fausto Frontera)

Like in the previous one the narrator portrays her as someone successful but disoriented and, in the development of the lines, he points out her background and gives her a tough and, at the same time, affectionate warning in which the anger for not getting her underlies hidden.

Sometimes, the story about the profile of the “garaba” is especially meticulous and, in the following case, the omen of her future misfortunes is detailed and with some objections as if they were pieces of advice:

Pensá, pobre pebeta, papa, papusa,
que tu belleza un día se esfumará,
y que como todas las flores que se marchitan
tus locas ilusiones se morirán.
El "mishé" que te mima con sus morlacos
el día menos pensado se aburrirá
y entonces como tantas flores de fango,
irás por esas calles a mendigar...

Triunfás porque sos apenas
embrión de carne cansada
y porque tu carcajada
es dulce modulación.
Cuando implacables, los años,
te inyecten sus amarguras...
ya verás que tus locuras
fueron pompas de jabón.

(“Pompas de jabón”, music by Roberto Goyheneche)

When he says: “sos apenas un embrión de carne cansada” (you’re just an embryo of tired flesh), the author uses a ruthless metaphor addressed to a young girl in the beginnings of her licentious life. It is a terribly cruel forecast but which, at the same time, is original and thoroughly descriptive of the thought and morals of the time. Neither, in this example, is the man free from the spell nor the frustration for not being the owner of the love of that girl. He speaks with anger and disenchantment not only because of her but also due to his own fate.

Another similar tango, but with a more acid description, full of resentment and accompanied by a complaint:

Tenés un camba que te hacen gustos
y veinte abriles que son diqueros,
y muy repleto tu monedero
pa´ patinarlo de Norte a Sud...
Te baten todos Muñeca Brava
porque a los giles mareas sin grupo,
pa´ mi sos siempre la que no supo
guardar un cacho de amor y juventud.

(“Muñeca brava”, music by Luis Visca)

The one who tells the story cannot hide his annoyance and, as we said above, behind so much flattery the reason is always the same: hate generated by unrequited love.

In another tango, the warning becomes a statement of condemnation:

Che, milonga, seguí el jarandón,
meta baile con corte y champán,
ya un noche tendrás que bailar
el tango grotesco del Juicio Final.

(“La reina del tango”, music by Rafael Iriarte)

But not all women were spellbound with tangos and champagne, some of them -like in the following case-, kept sincere relations with the loved man, although with little success:

Yo no sé por qué senderos...
Yo no sé por qué camino...
En qué extraños remolinos
nos perdimos para siempre...
Sólo sé que comprendiendo tu valor...
te dejé para salvarte, pobre amor...
La miseria es cosa fuerte,
merecías mejor suerte... Corazón...

(“Hoy es tarde”, music by Juan Carlos Howard)

The guy knows the woman is good, that she loved him honestly, and he esteems her. He admits that his offer for a shared life was miserable and, furthermore, he forsakes her in order to save her. It is a case similar to the one of "Confesión" (by Enrique Santos Discépolo). In sum, he talks about the difficulties in building love and in keeping the flame burning under so unfavorable circumstances.

Within this group, when despite their failure, lovers have respect for each other and understanding, we have this gem that narrates a date full of resignation and melancholy:

¡Afuera es noche y llueve tanto!...
Ven a mi lado, me dijiste,
hoy tu palabra es como un manto...
un manto grato de amistad...
Tu copa es ésta, y la llenaste.
Bebamos juntos, viejo amigo,
dijiste mientras levantabas
tu fina copa de champán...

(“Por la vuelta”, music by José Tinelli)

And talking about dates, why not a frustrated one?

No vendrá.
Bien lo sé que ella no vendrá.
Y aunque esperar ya no quiero
otro rato más la espero.
No vendrá...
Pero igual pensando en ella estoy.
Ya por hoy no la veré
me lo dice la postrer
campanada de un reloj.

(“No vendrá”, music by Enrique Cadícamo himself)

Death cannot be absent in this review and, of course, a dead woman is the loved one:

¿Qué duendes lograron lo que ya no existe?
¿Qué mano huesuda fue hilando mis males?
¿Y qué pena altiva hoy me ha hecho tan triste,
triste como el eco de las catedrales?
¡Ah!... ya sé, ya sé... Fue la novia ausente,
aquella que cuando estudiante, me amaba.
Que al morir, un beso le dejé en la frente
porque estaba fría, porque me dejaba.

(“La novia ausente”, music by Guillermo Barbieri)

Alcohol as the trigger of intimate confessions between characters that, on certain occasions, not even know each other but suffer the same anguish, the same loneliness:

Ven a beber que estoy muy solo,
ven, buena amiga, flor nochera.
Yo soy un triste calavera,
vos, una más en el vaivén.
Ven a embriagarte yo te invito,
tal vez también tengas tus penas,
tus ojos dicen que sos buena.
Ven, magdalena del loco cabaret.

(“Dolor milonguero”, music by Juan Carlos Cobián)

The character invites a woman of the night to drink and confesses her his despair. He tells her he is lonely and sad and that he even understands that the same might be happening to her.

Of course! The golden page is with a similar plot but involving two that know each other very well:

Esta noche, amiga mía,
el alcohol nos ha embriagado...
¡Qué importa que se rían
y nos llamen los mareados!
Cada cual tiene sus penas
y nosotros las tenemos...
Esta noche beberemos
porque ya no volveremos
a vernos más...

The lovers say goodbye with resignation and drink confessing their sadness, making a touching evaluation of their lives. They are absolutely in equal conditions, like two peers, none is better than the other, they are linked by pain. This tango is, no doubt, one of Cadícamo’s masterpieces.

Hoy vas a entrar en mi pasado
y hoy nuevas sendas tomaremos...
¡Qué grande ha sido nuestro amor!...
Y, sin embargo, ¡ay!,
mirá lo que quedó...

(“Los mareados”, music by Juan Carlos Cobián)

At the end, a finale with full orchestra.

As for passing fancies, there is no better example than:

La luz de un fósforo fue
nuestro amor pasajero.
Duró tan poco... lo sé...
como el fulgor
que da un lucero...
La luz de un fósforo fue,
nada más,
nuestro idilio.
Otra ilusión que se va
del corazón
y que no vuelve más.

(“La luz de un fósforo”, music by Alberto Suárez Villanueva)

Lastly, and to ratify the thesis that a mother is the most sacred thing:

Ella fue como una madre,
ella fue mi gran cariño...
nos abrimos y no sabe
que hoy la lloro como un niño...
Quién la va a saber querer
con tanto amor,
como la quise.

(“Pa’ que bailen los muchachos”, music by Aníbal Troilo)

The guy did not know how to highlight the virtue of the girl and had no better idea than making a comparison with her Mom. Is there a better praise for a genuine tango man?

What a poet Cadícamo was! A deluxe observer who in his tangos portrayed the passions and the yearnings of so many women... of course! from the point of view of a man. But, in spite of that, with a kind and affectionate look, at times even generous, also with women, apparently, more deceitful but that, in reality, symbolize what is unattainable or, in the best of cases, lost love. It turns out obvious that the tangos chosen correspond to other times, to other Buenos Aires where a generalized machismo (male chauvinism) with —ethical and aesthetic— customs and values quite different to these of our days, but being a universal issue inherent to the essence of the human condition is still touching us.