Archive for August 11th, 2011


The mythical “Cafe Nacional”, the cathedral of tango, until 1916 was known as “Cafe LLoveras” where famed Argentine chess master Maximo Abramhson held court…it is here that Osvaldo Pugliese debuted with singer Amadeo Mandarino, his first orchestra on August 11, 1939…because of his communist sympathies, he was persecuted by the Juan Peron regime…during his periodic incarcerations his orchestra would continue performing but would place a red rose on top of his unmanned piano…He was born in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo, Buenos Aires, a traditionally jewish neighborhood, to an Italian immigrant father who was a shoe repairman but who loved music…it was he who gave young Osvaldo his  first violin lesson; Osvaldo would later switch to the age of 16 he was hired by Paquita Bernardo, the first professional female bandoneonist in Argentina, to play in her sextet…


Osvaldso Pugliese was a highly principled man with a strong sense of social justice…among his activities, he was an organizer of workers’ strikes and even looked after the welfare of the terribly exploited prostitutes…he set up his orchestra as a cooperative in which everyone including himself was paid the same amount of money…there were numerous great hits among his hundreds of recording but perhaps non greater than “Recuerdo” which he composed  at the age of 19…during one of his numerous world tours at a stopover in Japan, he had a conversation with Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, a renown Buddhist who said of Osvaldo “I have met with emperors, kings, philosophers, great personalities from around the world, but I never found as much spiritual affinity with such a person as with Osvaldo.”



Carlos, a student,  is a nice young man with a bright future ahead and promised to his sweet girlfriend Rosita but he becomes enchanted by Raquel who leads him to an immoral life…Carlos follows her to a port somewhere in the United States where he earns money dancing…he discovers that Raquel is supporting another man with the money that he gives her…“Cuesta Abajo” was based on a play by Countess Emilia Pardo Bazan, an early pioneer of women’s rights, whose copious writings in mid 19th century Spain explored ironic misfortune in human life…when one of her novels created a scandal, she chose to leave her husband rather than stop writing as he had commanded her to do…the success of the premiere of Cuesta Abajo at  the Campoamore Theater in Harlem moved Carlos Gardel to say “que fenomeno, viejo, que fenomeno!”…


While 1500 people were crammed inside the theater, thousands more were waiting outside where they could hear Gardel sing through loud speakers…police authorities, still reeling from America’s first race riot which had occurred in Harlem just a few months earlier, even called the fire fighters to help control the crowd and Carlos Gardel had to leave early through a back door under police escourt…Harlem was then the home of New York’s growing hispanic immigrant community…the role of femme fatale “Raquel” was given to Mona Maris a hollywood actress who like Gardel was a love child…in her long career, her name would appear alongside those of Humphry Bogart and Cary Grant…Gardel himself interviewed her for the part and it was even rumored that they had been lovers….towards the end of her life, in an interview she said, “we were both strongly drawn to each other and if he had lived in New York we would probably have become lovers”…it was Gardel’s first American film and the most successful Spanish language film up until that time