Since the origins of tango seem to lack specific evidence, it has been rumored that tango was born in the brothels of Buenos Aires. However, according to history-of-tango.com, “a more likely explanation is that the brothels were where people of the upper and middle classes first encountered it. Members of Argentina’s literary classes – the people who are most likely to leave written evidence – did not mix socially with members of the lower, immigrant classes except in brothels.”
In the middle of the 19th Century the British arrived to develop the railway network across Argentina. However, there were not enough workers to develop the railway. The Argentine government advertised in Europe for workers offering accommodation, rations and subsidized passage. The influx of immigrants coming to Argentina was primarily men – leading to a shortage of women and popularity of brothels.
Lack of women in the population also meant fewer women available to work in the brothels. High client demand and few working women resulted in queues in the brothels as men waited for the women to become available. According to history-of-tango.com, “In exactly the same way that a few years later Madams in New Orleans would employ artists like Jelly Roll Morton, at the cutting edge of the new music transforming Rag Time into Jazz, to entertain the men while they waited, brothel owners in Buenos Aires would employ Tango musicians. In both cities, these musicians were playing the music of the poor, and brothels were amongst the very few places in that section of society that could afford to employ professional musicians. So it is not surprising to see that the most important early musicians often spent some time working in brothels before becoming successful to a wider audience.”
Once in Argentina, most immigrants did not make enough money to return to their homeland and the shortage of women made it a challenge for them to have a family of their own. The article claims, “There were really only two practical ways for a man to get close to a woman under these circumstances. One was to visit a prostitute and the other was to dance. With so much competition from other men on the dance floor, if a man wanted a woman to dance with him, it was necessary for him to be a good dancer, and being a good dancer only meant one thing. It didn’t matter if he knew lots of fancy steps, or if the other men thought he was a good dancer. The only thing that mattered was that the woman in his arms had a good time when she danced with him – because with so many other men to choose from, if she didn’t enjoy dancing with him she wouldn’t do it again, and neither would her friends.”
Men needed to practice together to improve their skills to be good enough to dance with the women. Also during this time period, recorded music wasn’t available. The brothels played live music making it the ideal location to do the dance practice because the men wanted to be able to dance well when they got the opportunity to dance with a woman who was not a prostitute.
History-of-tango.com says, “It was not in the brothels that Tango was born, but in the courtyards of the tenement blocks where the poor lived. With so many people living together in one building, it was very likely that someone might play the guitar, perhaps someone else might play the violin or the flute, and that from time to time they would get together to play the popular tunes of the time. And other people in the building would take the opportunity to dance, to have a moment of joy in what might be a terribly hard and lonely life.”
Perhaps that is why there is so much passion in the dance of tango. Men had only a few moments to seduce a woman with the dance in the hopes of finding a love to share his life.
Liked this article? Please share with your friends and “like” us on our Facebook page. Don’t forget to check out our calendar of events, weight loss calculator, 3D body mass index, food calorie counter, and exercise calorie calculator.