On Carlos Gardel’s Trail

Although the subject of his birthplace is controversial, there is no doubt Carlos Gardel loved Buenos Aires more than any other place in the world. You too can get to know Carlos Gardel’s Buenos Aires by touring the city in his footsteps.  Explore the history of the tango and sift fact from fiction.  Immerse yourself in the historical context that gave rise to the legendary Carlos Gardel.

Our first stop is the famous Cafe Tortoni, the oldest and most authentic bar in Buenos Aires (established in1858). It used to be the gathering point for bohemians in its hayday, frequented by artists, and authors like Jorge Luis Borges. Carlos Gardel was one of the regulars at Cafe Tortoni where he used drink vermouth standing at the bar telling jokes or singing his songs.

Another standard stop on the Gardel itinerary is the Hipódromo Argentino racetrack. Located at Avenida de Libertador 4101 in Palermo, Hipódromo Argentino is a prime example of Buenos Aires‘ belle époque architecture. Gardel was a loyal fan of the races.  His fascination with the sport led him to buy his own racehorse: Lunático.

The route continues to the Palais de Glace at Posadas 1725.  The 1920s were the golden age of this building, where youth would dance the night away to the tunes of popular tango orchestras of the day. As a good bon vivant, Gardel was a regular at the Palis de Glace. Popular legend has it that one night, as he was leaving a dance (milonga) he was shot in the chest after sticking up for a friend in a brawl.  Gardel continued his singing career with a bullet lodged in his left lung.

Not too far away you will find the Luna Park concert hall at Bouchard 465.  It’s not much to look at but it was the epicenter of significant events in Argentina’s history. This is where the orchestras of Francisco Canaro, Anibal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese and others paid their musical tribute to Gardel’s remains after his death.

Carlos Gardel’s tomb can be found in the cemetery of Chacarita (Guzmán 730). A life size bronze statue of Gardel stands at the foot of his grave.  Its right hand, according to tradition, is always holding a lit cigarette while the left holds a bouquet of carnations.

Gardel’s home at Jean Jaures 735, a typical early 20th century structure, is now a museum open to the public where visitors can see documents, photographs, and personal artifacts from Gardel’s life.  This is not only the neighborhood he spent his last days in, but also where he grew up.

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