I grew up at a time when it was believed that the world was going to the end in the year 2000. This was part of a religious upbringing. I remember calculating what age I would be when “el fin del mundo” would occur. As I grew up, I paid less attention to the possibility of doomsday actually happening, in spite of witnessing the antics of a long list of lunatics from a variety of countries who throughout the years have brought the world to the verge of self destruction. Yet, the Earth has kept on turning (on its axis).
So, here we are, enjoying the last summer of the century, celebrating the joy of Argentine tango surrounded by a continuously growing number of friends. We happen to share the exhilaration and excitement that the commitment to the dance brings to those who love it. If the world were to end in about three months, who could take away all we’ve danced so far?
As a kid, summer vacations used to be long, dreary, full of idle time and long hot afternoons and balmy nights. Buenos Aires in the 50’s was still considered part of the Third World. For a while, after Hungary trashed the Argentine National team in Sweden, I believed that they were talking about soccer.
For us, summer camp meant to wander through the forests near the airport, eating berries and oranges from the nearby backyards. Letting our imaginations fly, we would exchange roles playing John Wayne and Buffalo Bill. During the early teenage years, we would clumsily attempt to play Don Juan Tenorio with the neighborhood girls. The image of an angry father with his fists and feet ready to protect the honor of their daughters, would serve as a natural deterrent to the urges of the flesh.
One summer ago, I lost my mother unexpectedly and far away. Part of my childhood also died. For her I was still the little kid that never grew up. Because of her, I was still trying to live up to some irrational expectations. I’m sure she couldn’t understand that nearing the “end of the world,” her son had gone nuts. I had done the unthinkable, I had let myself be lured by the “temptations of the night and sexy women.” I had become a tango dancer.
I wish now, that she could have been to our milongas this summer. That she would have come along across the country to see the love, respect and affection that I have received from so many tango friends. Somehow, I know I’ve seen her standing by the door the night we celebrated La Mariposa’s big Five-O. I felt her presence. She looked so pleased and proud. Maybe she was also in Honolulu, Boston and Providence. Certainly she must have laughed as we played like children with the silly old farts her age in Harriman. Her angel definitely was in Reno, and positively she is in my heart.
I write this off the cuff as I relish the memories of the great last summer of tango of this century on this planet we call Tango. I hope you’ll understand the indulgence. I wish that you’ll share the happiness, the joy, the generosity of so many people. They make possible the celebration of the Argentine tango as it prepares to turn another leaf into a new century. New faces, new smiles, new friends will take our places as we gradually become memories of a great and joyful past.