History repeats itself. 2001 was my third trip to Argentina in less than a year. I was in love with the country, I was in love with tango. Buenos Aires was mecca. It was a time in my life where I was thinking of living outside of the US. I had done quite a bit of traveling. I loved Mexico..and I loved Paris. In my naivete, I saw Buenos Aires as a mixture of both. I had this romantic notion of being the "foreigner" without really understanding what that was.
2001 was the great default of Argentina on its debts. I was here. Yet, I really didn't understand the ramifications of what was going on. My world was the milonga, the tango. I thought that said it all. Rome was burning but people were still dancing, the cafes were full.
Like most people who come to Buenos Aires to dance tango, they have no clue about what it is really like to live here, what is really going on. Some don't care, some think they know it all. They don't understand that life in the milonga is not life in Argentina, or even Buenos Aires. It is the milonga. Ya esta.
In my fantasy life before I moved here all I could see was the milonga and cheap. I could come to Buenos Aires, spend 2 weeks dancing in the best milongas, do whatever I wanted, and it was way less than a weekend dancing in Denver, or Seattle, or anywhere in the US...and it was Buenos Aires.
People would talk about the "crisis." Store fronts were empty. Stores and businesses were either out or going out of business. The peso started out 1 - 1 with the dollar and by the middle of 2002 it was fluctuating between 3 and 4.
A parilla for 2 was 15 pesos. It was enough for 4. It came with french fries and salad. With drinks it came to maybe 25 pesos. For me that was $8. I would easily pick up the tab. Entrances to the milongas were 6 pesos. A bottle of water 2. It was amazing to be here.
I had a hard time relating to the crisis. I knew it was there. My friends would talk about it. The ones I would see outside the milonga. Stories of people losing their jobs, their apartments. Families that fell apart. I remember once seeing a family with 3 beautiful small girls going through the garbage. I tried to give the father 20 pesos but he refused. Today they would kill me for it..literally.
Buenos Aires. A graceful old lady gone dotty. I would walk the tree lined streets and look at the beautiful old buildings. The idea of living here kept pulsating through my head. The addiction to tango cursing through my blood. I would live in the milongas. What could be better than a life of living the tango, and in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires, a beautiful old city. I was a foreigner. Extranjera. In the milongas I felt accepted. The milongas didn't always welcome the foreigners, but I was one. What was I thinking? I wasn't. I was reacting. The main reason; I didn't understand what most people were saying. I spoke Spanish, but not the Porteño variety of Spanish. Ignorance is bliss.
In this time Tango was not a business. It was a dance. There were almost no foreigners in the milongas. Things were different. There were those that heard if you managed to snag a foreigner, they might take you back with them where you could teach and live in a country where the streets were paved with gold. Those people were few and far between. Most had no desire to dance with you because you couldn't.
What a different life. I could forget the clients who couldn't find their Word document, whose printers didn't print, and whose inventories were out of control. I would land in Buenos Aires. Another world. Where people wanted to have pizza or coffee or dance all night. What a life.
I never thought of the things I would not be able to have. How different life would be. I had the tango and I thought, "Who needed anything else?"