In 1954 I left my native Buenos Aires for Mexico City. I was 12 years old. In Buenos Aires I never heard any tango as my mother opted for the classical radio stations that played the kind of music that I identified as “música del Teatro Colón.”
It was only when I returned to Buenos Aires in 1965 to do my military service in the Argentine Navy (ARA – Armada República Argentina) that I was first exposed to tango.
It was not the conventional tango. I purchased two records called Tango contemporáneo - Astor Piazzolla y su nuevo octeto (1963) and Concierto en el Philharmonic Hall de New York (1965). I was particularly attracted to Piazzolla’s dissonance because by then I had been a fan of the music of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.
I remember getting into a heated argument with my first cousin Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena who said that this “Nuevo tango” could not be tango as it could not be danced to. Many years later in the late 90s I learned to dance the tango in Vancouver and I had no problem with Piazzolla.
But as I wrote here, it was in a live Piazzolla concert that I fell in love with a beautiful woman called Susy.
I am planning on driving in late March to New Dublin, Ontario where my Rosemary was raised. I have a portable CD player that I can plug into my car and I have at least 50 hours of Piazzolla music which I will listen to on my way.
I was in Buenos Aires from December 20 until the 30th. I wanted to escape the gloom of a Christmas without Rosemary. But it was to no avail as I found that staying in our former Hotel Claridge her ghost was everywhere.
My family and my friends who work at the Claridge all told me that as soon as I was back in Vancouver I would miss Buenos Aires.
They were right.
I must amend that, in writing here, that what I miss is an Argentine/Buenos Aires identity that is in me that compiles all my experiences of having been in that city and having met Julio Cortázar, run into Jorge Luís Borges (without knowing who he was) several times in the mid-60s at the Pigmalion Bookstore, embraced Doctor Arturo Illía (the man I had helped depose on 28 June 1966) in 1972 in Mexico City and then the three times I went to the city with my Rosemary. Rosemary somehow became part of that fabric of identity that is my Argentine self.
There is a word in Spanish, particularly used by porteños - arraigado. It is about being attached to something or a place, much in the same way as a band aid. It is then painful to remove it. This feeling about being part of Buenos Aires is that.
Today I listened to an Astor Piazzolla DVD. I found myself crying loudly with little control. Carlos Gardel or Julio Sosa leave me cold (well, a bit warm) but Piazzolla is in my heart.
There is something about his music that defines “costumbrismo”which is a literary term used in Spanish for literature (and music, too?) that is only of one city. Jorge Luís Borges wrote stories where he defined accurately corners in his Buenos Aires.
Piazzolla, just a few notes of anything he has written, brings in me showers of Buenos Aires memories, of my past, of my recent past and of last week.
I believe that only an Argentine native of Buenos Aires, “a porteño” can feel this.
I cried because I knew that I was listening to Piazzolla and knowing there is nobody I can share him with. I would add that his music is not a happy music. Somehow I now identify Piazzolla’s music with my grief for my loss of Rosemary and in his music I can see in my mind her face.
Can it be possible that my Canadian Rosemary had in her a costumbrismo for my city – Buenos Aires?