Carlos Gardel – the Buenos Aires Icon

Gardel Mural, Abasto

Gardel Mural, Abasto

If you were to ask a visitor to Buenos Aires to name somebody who for them summed the city up, they might answer Evita or maybe Maradona. Both good answers, but if you asked a Porteño, you may well hear a different response, as the symbol of their city they could well choose Carlos Gardel. If you’re not from Argentina or not a great fan of tango, then you would be forgiven for not knowing who Gardel is, but if you visit Buenos Aires and come away still not knowing who he is, then that’s just not right!

Whilst France and Uruguay still battle to be claimed as the country of his birth, there is no doubt that he moved to Buenos Aires at a young age and grew up in the Abasto area. Starting out singing in bars and private parties his rich baritone soon began to be noticed and by 1917 his records were selling 10,000 copies.

During the 1920s his interpretations of the tango-canción (a genre he invented and popularised) earned him huge numbers of fans around the Spanish-speaking world and beyond. He toured all round South America, the US and Europe. In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s he made a number of films for Hollywood, largely forgettable dramatically but they leave us wonderful examples of his beautiful voice. In 1935 he was killed in a plane crash in Medellin in Colombia. He was mourned all over the Americas and his body was taken to New York, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo before finally being laid to rest in La Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires.

His legend lives on today, nowhere more than in Abasto where his house has been converted to a museum. Our tour takes you through Abasto past his house, the Pasaje Zelaya where murals of the man himself line the street, along with lyrics and music to some of his most famous songs.

I’ll leave the last word to the man himself however, singing a song to the city he loved so much, and who loves him still, Mi Buenos Aires Querido.

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