1888, July 24 – BIRTH OF EDUARDO ESCARIS MENDEZ

Poet (Leo) – Eduardo Escaris Mendez, like two other renown tango poets Pascual Contursi and Dante A. Linyera, ended his life alone and forgotten in the insane asylum “Hospicio De Las Mercedes” legendary for its storys of patients chained to the dining tables and cruel and violent orderlys in miserable conditions…founded in 1865, by the end of World War I, at its peak, it contained 6000 patients…the cause of Mendez’s madness and that of Contursi and Linyera as well, was probably the latter psychotic phase of syphilis…syphlis had been rampant in Europe in the 18th and 19th century and was carried by immigrants to Argentina…from the begining, tango was was part of the culture of whorehouses; its musicians frequently played there….Mendez was the lyricist for many tangos but his most enduring has been “Barajando” which has been recorded by many orchestras…for many years he ran gambling joints along with the requisite girls for entertainment…toward the end of his life, debilitated by the progressive effects of syphlis, he opened a second-hand book store and remained there until he was completed incapacitated and interned in the Hospicio De Las Mercedes from which few returned…

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The renown bandoneon player and composer Jose Marmon, who created over 380 compositions, was known to have contracted syphilis no doubt from performing in the houses of prostitution….little is know about how and when he passed away…at the beginning of 20th century treatment for mental illness was practically non-existent; patients were basically locked up…interestingly, Hippocrates in ancient Greece had observed that malaria induced convulsions could cure insanity in some patients; in fact inducing convulsions was one of the few existing therapies leading to what was at the time a major breakthrough, the development of electroshock therapy by Ugo Cerreti in Rome in 1937…the classic French film “King of Hearts”, about an insane asylum during World War I which premiered in 1966, inspired Horacio Ferrer to write his masterpiece “Ballada Para Un Loco” to Astor Piazzolla’s music which became a major hit for Roberto Goyeneche

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