Friday, October 7, 2011

Glorias Argentinas is no more

I had some bad news.

Martha looked like she didn't understand what I said.  "Yes, Glorias is still on Saturday," she said.

I explained to her I had already spoken to Oscar Hector and Haydee today.  Martha's eyes widened with shock and disbelief.

Manolo sensed something was up and leaned over to ask Martha what was wrong.  Martha repeated what I told her.  Manolo, too, needed a few seconds for the information to sink in.

"Glorias is closed," Martha said again.  "Glorias Argentinas is no more."

Manolo shook his head sadly.  "Oscar Hector has run the milonga there for thirty-five, forty years.  It was only yesterday when I danced there with Oscar Hector's mother."

After Martha and Manolo's practica, we took a taxi back to the hotel, and then walked to La Madeleine. The rain had changed to light drizzle, but the wind was getting stronger. 

La Cumparsita echoed through the grand hall of Glorias Argentinas for the last time just two weeks ago.  A dispute with the landlord over rent.  "It's like everyone we knew there, everyone who we have seen and danced with...has just died," I said.

"How could they let that happen?  It's not just a milonga.  It's not just a piece of tango history. It's Glorias Argentinas!  The "Glory" of Argentina.  They cannot let it fade away like that."

I had to reassure Man Yung.  "Well, the Saturday milonga is gone but the club itself is still there.  I think there is a milonga on another night - not run by Oscar Hector, mind you."

Man Yung was silent for a while.  "It will never be the same again," he finally said.  Sighing, he picked up his wine glass.  "I guess the glass is half full.  We can say that we had the opportunity to share and experience the last, twilight years of Glorias and be part of its spirit, its history - before it closed its doors."

It was the very first milonga we had ever gone to in Buenos Aires, on the very first night we arrived.  Man Yung danced with his first milonguera there - I danced with my first milonguero.  Man Yung won his first lucky draw.  Through video, it was on the pista of Glorias Argentinas that we first saw Manolo dance.  And then there were the other memories - performing there, crashing Elba's birthday party, dancing candombe with Carlos Anzuate, giggling hysterically with Chiche, joining the lively joyous crowd in chacarera...

"I propose a toast," said Man Yung.  "To Glorias Argentinas, that is no more."

There was only a drop left in my wine glass.  I raised it to my lips.

"And another toast," said Man Yung.  "To Glorias Argentinas - to its glorious past."

I thought I had finished the wine, but there was half a drop left.  I drank it down.

"And my final toast," said Man Yung.  "To Glorias Argentinas - and the day that the tango will be finished for us too."

For surely that day will come...for all of us.

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Alberto Dassieu

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