Foreign visitors to Buenos Aires don’t feel the economic pinch as much as porteños do. If you have U.S. dollars or Euros to spend, you get an excellent exchange rate — now at 15.76 to the dollar. Your biggest expense is air travel and lodging. Once you arrive, your expenses for milongas, local travel, and food are less now than they were in 2001 when the peso was equal to the dollar.
Porteños face a different situation. One visit to a milonga may cost 400+ pesos with the cost of taxis or parking, entradas, food, drinks, tips, etc. Portenos are not going to dance as often as they used to. Those who live on a government retirement have to manage their money to last until the end of the month.
This is a comparison of prices in 2001 versus 2017:
Bus ride: 80 centavos/cents (2001) 6.50 (that’s $0.41 in 2017)
Subway ride: 70 centavos/cents (less than the bus in 2001) 7.50 (2017)
Milonga entrada: 3-5 pesos/dollars (2001) 80-100 pesos ($6.35 in 2017)
Bottled water at a milonga: 2-3 pesos (2001) 40 pesos + tip (2017)
I read today that highway tolls and parking fees will increase 50% this month. That means your trip from and to the airport in a taxi or remis will cost more.
The peso and the dollar were equal until the end of 2001. Today the official bank rate is almost 16 pesos Argentine. There is really no increase in the milonga entrada for anyone with dollars to spend; you probably pay more than that to attend your local milongas. When I paid 3-5 peso entradas in 2001, I was going to milongas almost every day of the week. Today my routine is Wednesday and Sunday at Obelisco Tango where I spend 150AP each night with no transportation cost — I walk ten blocks. I consider that the best tango bargain in the world because I get to dance with the milongueros viejos.
December 23, 1933 —
He lives in my neighborhood, so we occasionally meet on the street. That’s what happened a couple of months ago when I had my camera with me for this photo. Arnaldo isn’t going to dance anymore, I’m sorry to say. He always asks me about Alito, but I don’t have much to tell him. I gave him my telephone number that day, but I haven’t heard from him. I thought he looked dapper with the hat.
Salon Canning got a major facelift in October. All milongas and classes had to be cancelled for about six weeks while the work took place. The walls are painted gray, the washrooms were totally remodeled, and the wood floor was carefully removed and then replaced. It’s better than ever. I hadn’t been there to dance in a year and wanted to see it for myself. Canal Rojo Tango is the Sunday milonga.
Floor: In a word — superb. It gets crowded, so one has to know how to dance in a small space and continually moving along. This is where navigation skills get tested.
Sound system: Speakers hang over the floor for optimal sound level. The salon is large with high ceilings.
Deejay: Mario Orlando who works in the corner by the bar. He knows what to play for this demanding audience.
Entrada: 100 pesos (and worth it); bottled water is 40 pesos.
Seating: The tables have two chairs facing the floor. Aisles between the tables allow access to the dance floor. Two occupy each table, and very few have three. The central air-conditioning keeps the salon cold. Bring along a jacket if you get cold like I do.
Dancers: There are many milongueros who have their reserved tables for years.
Waiters: They are responsible for seating. I went to sit next to a friend’s table, and those who had it reserved didn’t show up. I was comfortable alone in the back row.
The walls have large works of art, one of which has Cleopatra wearing tango shoes.
Access to the washrooms is through a door near the bar. The men’s room is the first door on the left (where the ladies’ room was) and the ladies’ room is further down the hallway on the left. It is spacious, modern, clean, with large mirrors, good lighting, six stalls, and large waste baskets. There are two chairs for changing shoes. This part of the remodeling was long overdue.
December 19, 1934 —
Julio has driven a taxi in Lanus for over 50 years, and the newspaper Clarin did a story on him. He’s danced tango for 63 years. Since I changed my milonga home three months ago, I haven’t had the pleasure of dancing with him.
There is one man in the front row of six who is not Argentine. He doesn’t stand out as a foreigner, but blends in well among the portenos. He dresses like portenos. He respects the milonga codes and customs.
Last week I attended Nuevo Chique in Casa de Galicia on Thursday. A man on the other side of the floor looked my way. I’d never seen him before at a milonga. I decided to continue my gaze and wait for him to invite me with a nod. He did and then approached. I felt comfortable in his embrace, and he danced the music. After our first dance, he said: I don’t speak Spanish. He surprised me, since I thought I was dancing with a porteno. This was the first time in all my years in the milongas that I had mistaken a foreigner for a porteno.
He didn’t stand out as a foreigner. He age, his clothing and shoes, and relaxed manner indicated porteno to me. Only his language gave away his secret.
Charles was born in Belgium and lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is at the end of his first visit to Buenos Aires after dancing for 15 years. We got together on his last day and danced one tango. I put on Cachirulo by Anibal Troilo. He has the embrace and feeling of a porteno.
March 18, 1932 — November 22, 2016
I imagine that the worst pain for a milonguero is not dancing in the milongas. That was the case for Jorge for a few years.
After putting in two years of long hours, Jamie managed a month off from work in Hong Kong to dance in the milongas and study bandoneon.
Warmer weather has finally arrived in Buenos Aires after a long winter. I couldn’t help noticing that my friend Eduardo Ereson was the only man wearing a suit at Obelisco Tango.
Eduardo always makes a point of dressing well. He lives in Berazategui, south of the capital in the province of Buenos Aires. On Wednesday, his travel time was two hours on the bus!
Eduardo proves how easy it is to dress well on a budget. He buys at street fairs. His suit, shirt, tie, and leather shoes cost a total of fifty-six pesos. He would rather save his retirement income for a worthier cause — feeding the dogs and cats in his animal refuge.
We danced four or five tandas, and he never removed his jacket.
Carlos Biccai has a long train ride from Merlo to the city, but he arrived at Obelisco Tango impeccably dressed for the milonga. I had my camera in hand to take this photo the moment he arrived.