Unfortunately most of the published material from the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century is tainted with a conservative racist bias that represented the ruling elite of the Buenos Aires society. Conservative racism always suspects, demonizes and blames those who act or look different. Buenos Aires from 1880 on had enough diversity from poor European immigrants, disenfranchised blacks, and segregated homosexuals, to inspire volumes and volumes of descriptive pseudo history which some have used to institutionalize stereotypes.
My parents, and their parents were not “compadritos.” They never saw a “compadrito,” and neither did I.
My dad was born in 1911 and my mom in 1925. My dad became an adult in 1929 just a year before the second term of the first president elected under universal (male) suffrage came to an abrupt end by the first military coup since the adoption of the Argentine constitution. My mother was still a teenager around 1938, just about the time Radio El Mundo hired the Juan D’Arienzo orchestra for its weekly live tango broadcasts. For those who openly hate the traditional tango music, D’Arienzo took the music written between 1900 and 1910 and created new arrangements adding speed, rhythm and sonority.
The carnival season of 1938 is considered the moment in time and history that the golden years began. Having enjoyed the radio programs featuring live orchestras, in particular the new sound proposed by Juan D’Arienzo, people came out by the thousands to listen and dance to Juan D’Arienzo, Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli and Francisco Canaro, among the many orchestras featured at the carnival dances in clubs all over the city both sides of the Avenida General Paz.
That is the period when the tango we all dance today was initially created. The moment when the renovated rhythm of D’Arienzo opened the doors to a level of creativity unmatched in the evolution of the dance. The core ingredient of the tango that ruled the golden years was based on the structure of turns, the incorporation of women into the chemistry of the dance, and the concept of improvisation as dictated by the dynamic of the crowded dance floors.
The younger generation began to have an easier access to the dance floors, hiding behind the carnival masks, and taking advantage of the looser codes that the festive season allowed. There has never been any doubt though, that the tango is a dance for adults, and the primary motive for men to care about their grooming and their skills, was to conquer a woman. Women knew that and they had the added benefit of being choosers rather than beggars. From the get go, the intrinsic philosophy and purpose of the tango dance was to seduce and conquer. A very human act at a very special moment in time.
Many families got their start on the dance floors, and many milongueros left the dance floors once they got married and had to rise a family. During their waning years, widowed or divorced, many returned to the milongas, to relish on the rituals of hoping to take someone home at the end of the night.
There is no evidence that any “milonguero” ever got their dreams fulfilled, but until their deaths, they kept coming night after night hoping to get the Hawaiian greeting.
That’s what tango is all about in a nut shell.