and so I moved. Just like that. Almost. After 16, 17, 18 trips I was ready for a new life. Argentina would be better. People were nicer. They hugged, they kissed. They went to coffee without making an appointment two months in advance. Groups would go to dinner. Share. And then there was the tango.
I had danced in Europe, Canada, and the US. There was no where like Buenos Aires. I was consumed. When I look back, it almost all seems so silly. I had dozens of pairs of shoes. Now I have one pair. I had special tango clothes. Now no. My life was tango. I had mistaken the tango for something else. Just like many.
A friend of mine once said that he thought people used tango in place of having a real relationship. Maybe that is what led me to live in Buenos Aires. The tango was just the vehicle that got me there. Argentine life seemed suited to me. Dancing, staying up all night, hanging out with friends. What more could anyone want? An extended adolescence.
It was not like I didn't have dreams. I wanted to introduce the world to the "real tango." Not what was being danced outside. A tango that had feeling. A tango that was not show tango mixed in. In my apartment I would host people coming here to dance. I would show them the "real" Buenos Aires and the "real" tango.
I had my 15 minutes of fame...or maybe 20. Interviews in local and foreign newspapers. Dancing on TV here. A partner who was well known. In the end what did it bring? Lots of jealousy. Lots of nasty people saying nasty things about me when they didn't even know me. Lots of people wanted to be my friend. After all I got a great table in the milonga. I knew real live Argentines who danced. I knew the cognescenti. Buah!
My extended adolescence. I would get up at noon. Hang out. Give lessons. Then at 11 we would go to the milonga. Stay until 5:00 am. Come home, drink mate, and go to bed. I no longer had to be a responsible adult. I was a milonguera.
Whenever I met Argentines who had nothing to do with the tango (Of which is the majority of the population) they would turn their noses up at me. Who quits their job and moves to Argentina..and to dance tango? They thought I was crazy. Foreign tango dancers called it "following my passion." This was a country in crisis. Normal people do not quit their jobs, sell everything they have to dance a dance. Even the milongueros thought we were crazy.
In 2006 it started to change. The city of Buenos Aires discovered tourism and tango. Put them together and you got "MONEY." Or as we say here.. guita. They created the "Mundial del Tango." People would compete in their home countries and then come here to win the grand prize - World Tango Champions. Ugh.
"Tango" said my milonguero friends, "cannot be judged. How can you judge what comes from the heart?" But they did and they continue to do it. Enough to change the face of the dance. Tango would never be the same after the invasion of tourists, and neither would Buenos Aires.
Just like Bariloche, Iguazu, and Mendoza..the milongas became crowded with tourists. Places that at one time wanted to sit you in another province for being foreign put you in the front row. Before you had to be properly dressed to enter milongas. Now you could enter with flip flops and shorts. Before you had to know how to dance to be on the floor..If not you were asked to sit down. Now those flip flops and shorts are being taught how to dance by some baboso trying to be charming. Photo Op for the flip flops, nightmare for the rest of us.
Milonga organizers thought nothing of displacing their regular dancers. Tour groups of 50 - 70 people wanting to watch the locals dance. We were like monkeys at the zoo. Locals lost their regular tables and 50 - 70 less of uscould enter the milonga they went to faithfully every week. Money talks.
Argentina was hot. It was cheap. Anyone could be someone. People came here and they remade themselves. Artists, actors, designers, or a bon vivant. The economy was being fueled by the demand for soy and other grains. Business was booming. Suddenly everyone was a tour guide or a teacher or the owner of a small hotel. It was a crazy time. Almost like being in high school. Fast times at Ridgemont High comes to Buenos Aires.
You could live your dreams here. Until the party started to end...