Tango has taken the world for a twirl as dance festivals are erupting in major cities everywhere, from London and Berlin, to Kiev and Budapest. This year’s tango festival in Buenos Aires promises to draw crowds of international tango fans and dancers to the city, but many wonder whether the government is doing enough to invest in tango culture at the community level, and to preserve the spirit of ‘tango culture’ from the claws of the tourism industry.
We took to the street to ask what local people think of the complex relationship between tango tourism in the city.
Photos by Diego Cupolo
Melida Radian, 59, antiques vendor, La Plata
Tango is very important for culture and identity of Argentina. It’s important for tourism because people are interested in how to dance, how to do the things that we do. The government supports tango a lot. In the government house, they invite a lot of tango musicians when they hold events for others to show them a part of our culture. They already support and fund a lot of tango.
Eduardo Ruiz, 64 1/2, restorer, Caballito
In the past, tango has been very important for Argentines. It’s our dance, it’s what tourists come to see, to dance. Tango is important first, because it was born here and, second, during the 1930s the dance developed to symbolise melancholy. It developed the meaning of tango and made it more dramatic, it’s very passionate. It’s also a political statement. It used to be prohibited by the military, but it rose from the lunfardo [porteño slang], from the streets.
This is what we share with the world when they come here to see Argentine culture. We don’t need more festivals for tango, though. Tango is not supposed to be a big deal, it’s quiet, the way it used to be. For me, we put on some music in the morning and sip some mate and that is tango. It’s much quieter.
Rafael de Elejalde, 29, sales, Córdoba
The dance is important for Argentina, for sure. I’m from Córdoba so we don’t have a tango culture like Buenos Aires does. If tourists are looking for tango they come to the city, but it is still very important for the country. The dance is good the way it is, too. It’s nice when it is not as commercial, when you can find it in different neighbourhoods or in smaller areas. When people come to learn tango, it’s better when they learn the classic tango, when it’s not as organised. Argentina doesn’t need more tango show business. It’s part of our identity and we are very proud of it.
Mica Piñero, 22, art student, Abasto
Tango is classic Argentina. I don’t know much about tango, but I know that it is important to us and to the country. I am not sure if more festivals or more funding would be better for tourism because people already come here for the dance, to learn the dance, to understand this part of our culture. I don’t dance tango but I have many friends that go to Catedral every week to dance. It’s what we do, and tourists come here to know more about it.
‘Pipo’ Gonzalez Varela, 55, leather-maker, Floresta
Tango is the most important part of the people’s culture in this country. The music, the dance, everything. Argentina is a very interesting country because it’s like you need to know tango to be Argentine. Even the younger generations are learning it. Tango espectáculo is a new tango and it has a lot of big moves and is very showy. There is a guy who sells albums of tango mixed with electronic music just down the street and it is very good, very beautiful music.
People come from all over the world to experience this and so government awards and funding is very important to keep supporting it. Right now there are not big festivals for tango, but later in time, who knows? Maybe it could be a big festival, like carnaval.