Monthly Archives: June 2009

Tango in Medellin, Colombia

Try as we might, we were not able to experience Argentine Tango in Medellin.  The supposed birthplace of Carlos Gardel (Wikipedia says so…  OK, it also goes on to say he was born in Argentina and Uruguay too) and his place of death.  Apparently that’s what counts.

We researched on the internet (very little un-detailed info), we e-mailed a teacher in the city (helpful), we tried to find the milonga cafe (you try navigating those streets), and we even called the milonga location (the number was out of order).  However, the Tango universe was against us and Saturday night remained another Tango-less night in our travels around South America.

Medellin, and Colombia in general, have not been complete Tango disappointments though.  The moment we arrived in Colombia we heard Tango playing on the radio stations.  Mixed in with all the other Colombian rhythms, there was Tango!  At times, the songs were completely bastardized versions of the old greats, but at other times we were treated to beautiful pieces we had never heard before by the Maestros.

We left the beautiful city of Medellin to catch a flight to Ecuador only two days before the Medellin Tango Festival begun.  Had we known about the festival earlier, we would have tried to plan our travels around it.  The event seems to be quite a huge deal.  The beauty of this festival is that, unlike other places in the world, the festival interests everyone and not only Tango enthusiasts.  Tango and Gardel seem to have very special places in the hearts of the Medellin people.

Perhaps one day we will have the opportunity to experience the Tango Medellin has to offer… but not until someone in that city actually makes their Tango/milonga information readily available on the internet!

Culture Immersion

When we were in Buenos Aires we often felt very conflicted about seeing dancers we knew from Toronto.  Let us rephrase that:  We weren’t really conflicted, but we didn’t want to offend anyone.

Let K preface by saying that she has lived abroad.  K originally went to teach children English in Finland for a year, but then met Jorge and moved back there for another 3.5 years.  During her first year, she was invited by a foreign student to befriend all the other foreign students, as had her predecessor.  Although very thankful, K had no interest in this.  Had she really traveled all that way to hang out with other foreigners?  No.  Instead, she befriended Jorge and spent all her free time with him and his family, and she immersed herself in the Finnish culture.

That said, we hoped that anyone we saw from the homeland would be of the same mindset as us.  Which was: We went to Buenos Aires to experience the culture. Let us say hello, possibly go for coffee, and then be on our separate ways.  We certainly didn’t spend all that hard-earned money to see and spend time with the same people we see back home.

In all honesty though, we did meet some lovely Asians who were wonderful people and who danced the “same kind of Tango” we danced (perfectly said by one of these new friends).  Although we did spend a lot of time with these gringos, the positive was that they were gringos of a different culture than ours.

“Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untravelled minds.”
– Caleb Colton