La Rubia Mireya (The Blonde Mireya)
eroines are present in many tango titles and lyrics. Some were real characters and others the product of imagination and later became popular myths.
As for the tango “Felicia”, the story says that his composer Enrique Saborido, at a casual meeting with the playwright Carlos Mauricio Pacheco, was introduced to the latter's wife, Mrs.Felicia Ilarregui. God knows why, the composer decided to take her name to name a new tango he had composed.
In the case of the tango “Gricel”, José María Contursi tells us about the development of his love affair with a woman he had met when he was young and when, on meeting her again much later, she would become his wife.
The case of “Malena” is much more complicated, even though it has some autobiographic features, nobody knows exactly who is the true inspiring muse.
“Milonguita (Esthercita)”, surely a fiction character created by Samuel Linnig, inspired the popular imagination, to such an extent that people thought knew her name, María Esther Dalto.
And so we can go on with a long list of true and fictional heroines that dwell the tango universe.
The case of the Rubia Mireya is pure invention, romantic inspiration of the poet, although, like in other cases people tried to assign her a body, a name and a career in life.
The Argentines of the age, influenced by the European, and especially the French culture, dreamed of the Parisian nights, with the possibility of frequenting Mimí, Ninón, Manón, Griseta or Mireya.
We can locate the origins of the name in the region of Provence, in the south of France. The poet Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914) in 1859 wrote a long poem where he portrays the daily life in the region, and places a woman as main character, whose name gives title to the work: Mirèio, in Provençal language. This name translated to French becomes Mireille, that on arriving at our port, Argentineans turned into Miry.
What is funny about this matter is that the provençal poet was awarded the Nobel Prize of literature, on its third edition of the year 1904, what caused it to be widely spread.
Some time later, with music by Charles Gounod (1818-1893, composer of the opera Faust) the poem became the plot of an opera of humorous and picturesque style depicting regional customs.
The opera was a boom in France and was soon known in our country, what surely made the name Mireya be used in our lands as a female name.
The first clear reference about its utilization is verified on a sainete (brief theater play of simple script), El rey del cabaret, by Alberto Weisbach and Manuel Romero, the latter, author of numerous tango lyrics, script writer and film director.
The play premiered on April 21, 1923, had Mireya as female protagonist, a girl who liked the nights with champagne, dancing tangos and conquering hearts, with a happy ending, where the girl married a young rich man of a wealthy family.
Two years later, Manuel Romero himself wrote the lyrics of the Francisco Canaro's famous tango, “Tiempos viejos”. There he immortalized Rubia Mireya, who unlike the character of the sainete (farce), had a tragic sad destiny. She was so pretty when young that «se formaba rueda para verla bailar» (everybody lined up to see her dance) and that after the passing of time, she turned into «una pobre mendiga harapienta» (a poor ragged beggar).
This same story was taken to the movies, as well by Manuel Romero as director, where the actress Mecha Ortiz shaped her definitive character.
It is quite likely that many female customers of the milongas (dancing places) at that time had used the name as nickname. What is true is that no one had been identified as the authentic Mireya, who inspired the tango.
We can complete this chronicle with a curiosity. A newspaperman tried to put forth an argument saying that he knew the «true Mireya». The latter was an Uruguayan known as La Oriental and whose true name was Margarita Verdier, a dancer much admired for her abilities in dancing. This story never succeeded in establishing the relationship between the tango author and the Uruguayan dancer. The lack of truth turned this news into a mere anecdote.
Finally, Héctor Benedetti tells us in his book Las mejores letras de tango (Editorial Seix-Barral): «The blonde Mireya was the origin of a copious literature, that she would never have had, had she been a real person. Dubious biographies and stories were made up; Julián Centeya named her in a milonga, maybe just for the sake of rhyme».