Ricardo Descalzi

06.Carlos Gardel: symbol and synthesis of tango

everal Ecuadorean generations -and why shouldn´t we say Spanish and Portuguese speaking American ones, to refer not only to the Argentine nation- rocked his childhood, his adolescence and youth under the rhythmic sentimental lullaby of tango. Almost since the beginning of the century its music and the deep fascination of its lyrics nurtured hopes and joys, disappointments and sadness and, in most cases, cradled that gentle melancholy consubstancial with sensitive spirits, when the evening plays in the hours of the dying light and the coming darkness.

Because tango, if on many occasions is a sob, is also the refrained tear, the longing which breaks into the soul filling the latter with reminiscing or the musical parade of tragedy multiplied in hundreds of facets, with the experience that its history brings: a condensed tale in poetry, carved of passion, claim and grief.

So it came to us there, in the years when childhood was landscaped, with no great conscience of its presence, entangling our sensitivity under the subtle accent surrendered in its painful, delayed, gently swaying, lilting melodies, like anguish was used to hit it to the rhythm of the notes which the sobbing bandoneons established.

We cannot be sure, but undoubtedly it had to be Carlos Gardel´s premonitory voice when in the 20s, the warm accent of the early tangos arrived at the phonographs.

It is in vain to try to recall their names, that time is so far, but we can remember some of their stanzas: «la percanta está triste/ qué tendrá la percanta/ en sus ojos hinchados asoma una lágrima/ rueda y se planta/. La percanta está triste/ no hace más que gemir/ ya no ríe, no baila, no canta/ y la pobre percanta se puede morir».

Or those other ones: «...del cabaret al hospital, donde a nadie encontró/ Pobre percanta que pasa la vida/ entre la farra, milonga y champán/ que tiene herida su almita perdida/ y entregada a un pobre bacán/. Su ilusión murió en el cabaret/ al compás de un tango compadrón/ y al sentir perdida ya su fe/ sintió su corazón/ transido de emoción».

No doubt some porteño will identify these lyrics with the title of the tango to which they belong, to later: “Loca”, “Che papusa oí”, «Corrientes 348», «Muere la luz cuando la tarde muere» and many more come to memory. In this way, tango was imposing its presence in Quito´s daily life, installing its rhythm at popular and family parties, nonwithstanding the dancer who was showcased by dancing with the so-called salon figures, in comparison with the «apache» tango of French origin.

Its popularity, who would have imagined!, was spread by two blind Chilean rhapsodes, who acccompanied on their guitars, on different stages among downtown streets and small squares, (memories sitting on the breastwork of San Agustín square), sang the tangos which became popular in those years, such as: “Adiós muchachos”, “La última copa”, “Organito de la tarde” and so many others, whose lyrics were sold in small booklets, being this their business.

In this way tango was acclimatized, to such an extent that a composer of ours even produced the called “Te vas, te vas madre mía”, a tango from Quito, together with others which our memory has forgotten. Later cuplet singers such as Esperanza Iris, Pilar Arcos and others with international acclaim arrived, and brought “Fumando espero”, “Tango negro”, “El Viejo Almacén”, besides “La cumparsita” already acclimatized in previous years.

It was at that time when we were impressed by Carlos Gardel´s voice and figure in his first movie: Luces de Buenos Aires, with such an impact on the environment, that immediately we began to admire and love him. This film brought us Tomo y obligo which the audience applauded with such warmth, that the operator had to stop the projection to reprise it twice or three times. He also brought the ranchera " Al pie de un rosal florido" and other unforgettable songs. Since then the advertisement of a Carlos Gardel movie crowded the auditoriums, so he turned out to be the idol of tango. We saw him on Melodía de arrabal, Cuesta abajo, El día que me quieras, El tango en Broadway, Tango Bar, where his tangos throbbed with emotion. We cannot forget “Silencio”, “El día que me quieras”, “Mi Buenos Aires querido”, “Melodía de arrabal”, “Por una cabeza”, “Amores de estudiante”, “Volver” and many, many more. So Carlitos Gardel was achieving stature, up to becoming a heroe, the binding character of our generation. Because, who was unaware of his sentimental music and their lyrics, a summary of a moment of pain and anguish? Who did not identify his face, his manly figure and his voice which was living tango, born for him, to give us the expressive force of his human quality?

When Quito knew of his tragic death, tears came to our eyes, finding the tragedy hard to believe. Then his personality grew and still warms the ashes of memory. Afterwards, in the silence of the hearts of those who loved him, we accompanied the sixty blocks of mourning, the day he was buried in his «Buenos Aires querido».

Ricardo Descalzi: He was born in Riobamba in 1912. Writer and historian, he is member of the Academia Nacional de la Historia of Ecuador. He alternated the study of history with the practice of medicine, publishing two books on cancerology. In 1932 he published Gismondo (a novel) and in 1950 he was awarded the Primer Premio Nacional de Teatro with his work "Clamor de sombras". Among his most important works the novel Saloya, Historia y crítica del teatro ecuatoriano (6 volumes) and La Real Audiencia de Quito, claustro de los Andes stand out. He was consul general in Antwerp and, among the honors conferred, the Casa de la Cultura de Guayaquil´s award, awards granted by the Universidad Central del Ecuador in 1963 and 1968, the Premio Tobar of Quito City Hall and the Premio Hiliar of Guayaquil can be mentioned. Descalzi is editorialist in important press organs in Ecuador.