Almagro Tango
Pampa Tango
Hugo Frasso

Barrios de tango

he neighborhood is one of the subjects most frequently taken into account by tango. This includes a street corner or, simply, a street. That is to say, the place which the poet is identified with, the one to which he belongs. It is a condition that the name of that place has to possess strength, forcefulness, beauty, musicality, poetry or, all those together, like many of the names of neighborhoods, streets or street corners that are tango titles or appear mentioned in their lyrics, matching with a perfect harmony.

Boedo, La Paternal, Palermo, San Telmo, Villa Crespo, Pompeya are some of them. Street corners like San Juan and Boedo (or Boedo and San Juan) because it was sung in both ways; Centenera Avenue and Tabaré, Suárez and Necochea or Rivadavia and Rincón. «I live on Corrientes Street near the corner with Paraná» o «Down there on Olavarría and the corner with Almirante Bron» (instead of Brown).

But, for some reason, tango has always respected the boundaries of the Federal Capital, save for very few occasions, like exceptions to the rule, and only mentioning briefly Avellaneda (or Barracas al Sur, if you prefer) and its enclosed surroundings. Always as a negligible reference, irrelevant within the lyrics of the piece, since the central issue is another thing. In this case, it would have been the same if any other neighborhood had been mentioned. It is not the case of the tangos “Almagro”, “Bajo Belgrano” or “Puente Alsina”, for example, in which the neighborhood is the central issue of the tango.

In “Sangre maleva”, we read: «En Boca, Avellaneda, Barracas, Puente Alsina /
Belgrano, Mataderos y todo el arrabal…»

In “Orgullo tanguero”: «Desde purrete lo he escuchado roncar, / por los deslindes de Barracas al Sur».

Avellaneda and its nearby surroundings seem to be that exception to the rule. At dancehalls in Barracas al Sur a boastful dancer dared to make his first steps. And on summer nights on one of its streets the song from an Italian ship is heard.

On another occasion, tango walked some blocks, and very close to that place, a carter washed down the corridor of his little hut in Alsina. And nothing more. Apart from these cases, it preferred not to be inspired in neighborhoods, corners or streets of the Greater Buenos Aires, in spite of the fact that not all tango poets have been porteños. Let us agree that in some cases, if we have to sing about a street corner, it is not the same to compose a milonga “Yo soy de San Telmo” as writing “Yo soy de Ruta 197 y cruce de José C.Paz”, for example. But nothing would be against a tango that sings to Tapiales, San Isidro or Ramos Mejía.

It is curious that it did not sing to the Greater Big City, so close and so related to the city. So much so that in every place of the city where people jumble, whether in the street, workplaces, demonstrations, barrooms, tearooms, concert halls or stadiums, in other words, where we daily share our lives with small or large groups, our friends, partners, mates or fellow members live in Belgrano, Lanús, Villa Crespo, Vicente López, Mataderos or San Justo, all with a common idiosyncrasy, maybe neighbors, on one or the other side of the General Paz Avenue. However, tango never crossed that avenue or the Riachuelo to enter our Greater Big City. But it went beyond to Bahía Blanca, Zárate or Catamarca. It also crossed the borders of our country accompanying Julio De Caro to Viña del Mar or Copacabana. And even it dared to cross oceans and continents to return defeated from the tragic Siberia and to walk along the streets of a sad and wandering Moscow.

We leave the tangos camperos (referring to country life) out of this analysis. A genre within the genre that talks about the “Pampa” and “Camino del Tucumán” moving along rivers, mounts and ravines. But that is another story. The tough, porteño (belonging to the Buenos Aires port area), from the outskirts, romantic or nostalgic tango, whatever its subject matter, for some reason, never meddled with its close neighbor.

It is worthwhile mentioning some countries or cities of the world that tango mentions (obviously, except Buenos Aires and Montevideo) Brazil, Rio, New York, Paris, London, Madrid, Naples, Tarento, Budapest, Moscow, Siberia, Tokyo, Santiago de Chile, Viña del Mar, Copacabana, Montmartre. And only three isolated and shy references to Avellaneda and Alsina.

Streets and neighborhoods mentioned in tango:

Arenales, Ayacucho, Blandengues, Boedo, Bolívar, Boyacá, , Almirante Brown, Callao, Centenera, Corrientes, Chiclana, Chile, Esmeralda, Florida, Gaona, Juncal, Leandro Alem, Maipú, Necochea, Olavarría, Paraná, Paseo Colón, Pepirí, Rincón, Rivadavia, Rodríguez Peña, San Ignacio, San Juan, Saraza, Suárez, Suipacha, Tabaré, Talcahuano, Tucumán.

Abasto, Almagro, Balvanera, Barracas, Belgrano, Boca, Boedo, Caballito, Chacarita, Constitución, Flores, Mataderos, Montserrat, Once, Parque Patricios, Paternal, Pompeya, Puente Alsina, Retiro, San Telmo, Villa Crespo.