Milonguero codes

I believe the codes of the Cosa Nostra (which means “our thing”) and the codes of the milongueros in Buenos Aires have many things in common.

The Cosa Nostra began during the middle of the 19th century, although confirmation of its existence in Italy wasn’t acknowledged until 1992. It is a brotherhood with rituals, rules of behavior, and a code of honor–don’t talk, listen, and observe. The codes are unwritten and passed on by word of mouth by its members. They are codes for life. The Cosa Nostra exists in only two countries in the world–Sicily and the USA since many Italians immigrated to New York before World War I.

From 1870-1914 (when tango’s predecessor the milonga was being created by musicians), there was a large migration of Italians to Buenos Aires. Many of the poets and composers of tango were of Italian descent-Miguel Calo, Carlos Di Sarli, Homero Manzi, Enrique Discepelo, Julio DeCaro, etc. The codes of the milongueros pattern those of the Cosa Nostra in many ways–behavior, silence, respect and nothing being written. With so many Italians living in Buenos Aires at the turn of the century, it’s no surprise that the codes of the milongueros were established and passed on the same way as the Cosa Nostra traditions. 

Buenos Aires and tango are so closely linked by history and culture, that if you separate them, you end up with something else. Milongas in the United States hardly resemble those in Buenos Aires. Milongas are called as such because of the presence of milongueros. Americans organize parties for socializing and tango dancing, but they aren’t true milongas without the codes. In Buenos Aires, one’s personal life is left at the door when a man enters the milonga. Tango is more than a dance for the milongueros–it is their life, what they have lived.

The codes are disappearing from the milongas in Buenos Aires for a singular reason–the milongueros are disappearing.

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