Luis Alposta

The word guapo and tango

t the times when wine was kept in amphoras, because casks had not yet been invented, Romans called spoiled wine by the name vappa, the one which turned into vinegar, the one which went sour. Hence, the saying: opened wine, dead wine.

Later, with the meaning of spoiled and applied to certain behaviors and attitudes, vappa became, as a second entry, to mean mischievous, rascal, wicked.

Centuries later, the word was also altered and the Latin term vappa became guapo, a word which the Spanish dictionary defines as spirited, brave and determined; the one who disregards risks and faces them. Also guapo is a word to depict a good-looking person and the one who does not hesitate at the time of working. And guapo is, furthermore, a synonym of quarrelsome and bully. And as well to mean boastful and compadrito.

Among us, the legendary guapo, the one with neckerchief and dagger, lies cornered in the stanzas of some milonga. And as for the one who pretends to be tough, here goes an example:

Fue un hombre
Fue un hombre de a caballo y de cuchillo,
según lo dice él mismo en el boliche,
donde siempre se manda el mismo espiche
después del primer vaso de tintillo.
Lo del caballo no es como lo cuenta.
(Aunque es verdad que por los años treinta
supo tener una yegüita zaina).
Y en lo que hace a su mundo cuchillero,
nunca nadie lo vio en un entrevero.
Tuvo un puñal que se oxidó en la vaina.
Luis Alposta (1976)

(He was a man
He was a man with knife and horse,
according to what he himself says at the barroom,
where he always says the same stuff
after the first glass of red wine.
About the horse, what he says is not true.
(Even though back in the thirties
he used to own a bay mare).
And about his world of knife fighter,
no one ever saw him in a brawl.
He had a dagger which turned out rusty in its sheath.

There are also many tangos which make reference to the guapo. Some titles as an example:

El último guapo
Guapo y varón
Guapo sin grupo
Guapo de la guardia vieja
Don Juan (Mozos guapos)
De puro guapo [b]
Mozo guapo
De puro guapo
Mocito guapo
Milonga del mozo guapo
Del tiempo guapo
Un tango guapo
Un guapo del 900
Del tiempo guapo [b]
Ley de guapos
Guapo lindo
Guapo y querendón
Se acabaron los guapos
Por ser guapo y varón
Nyanzas y malevos (Barrio de guapos)