What does tango have to do with Buenos Aires’s subway you might ask? Actually a lot more than you think!
In connection with the annual Buenos Aires’s tango festival, BA tours offered a special edition of one of their tango walks with the promise of a show in the end of the tour… How could I not, not want to see that!?
It turned out that it was not a normal walking tour. Not only were there more than just one tango show by highly professional performers, the whole guided tour took place underground… In Buenos Aires’ subway system!
Keep on reading and learn more about tango, Buenos Aires’ subway and how these two quite distinct porteño elements have been merged.
Tango at Buenos Aires’ H-line
I often change subway lines at the station Corrientes which connects the B-line with the H-line, and there you can’t miss the tango references.
At Corriente’s station a huge mural of Carlos Gardel and another tango star, Enrique Santos Discépolo, completely covers a wall. From time to time, there is a couple dancing tango in front of the mural while tango beat fills the station.
Thus, it was not before I went on the tour that I realized that every station on the H-line is decorated in memory of different tango personalities.
According to the guide from BA tour, none of the big tango stars of a past left any remarkable graves or memorials… Simply because there was nothing left in their bank accounts by the time of their death. They lived the sweet life all the way through. Not even Carlos Gardel – the biggest of them all – left enough money for a memorial.
In 2003, the local government of Buenos Aires gave the past-century tango stars a helping hand. They passed a law which indicated that the to-be-established new H-line in the subway system should be created as a “culturally tango tour of the subway”.
Each station should be decorated with images and art works referring to different personalities within tango. And so it became.
Throughout the tour the guide explained and pointed out all the old tangeros decorating the walls of the Subway stations.
However, they do offer another tango tour in English (link), which I’m still to try out!
The H-line and the subway system in Buenos Aires
The H-line of the Subte is the first subway line to be built since the 1960’s. The line eased the connection between the south and north part of Buenos Aires.
Furthermore, it connects with all the existing subway lines, and therefore improves the infrastructure for a huge amount of porteños.
The tango heritage in Buenos Aires today
According to some porteños tango has sat its mark on everyday life in Buenos Aires. Are the porteños, for example, more nostalgic than others because of the homesick and sad lyrics of the tango?
Or, as an Uber driver once told me, does the porteños’ special way of speaking date back to the way the tangeros sang?
It is up to you to decide what you believe! However, there is no doubt that tango has been and is part of what has put Buenos Aires and Argentina on the world map!