The way it was

I had a strong feeling that my days at this milonga were numbered after 16 years, so I wanted to remember things as they were in the end with photos.  The family members know me with a camera in hand.

I wanted to capture the way it was in my second home before I was no longer welcome.  Dancers talk about the milongas and word gets around.  New management was making changes, and dancers were not happy.  I listened to the complaints, but I am the only who writes about them. Several years ago I wrote on an open forum about a milonga organizer who was dancing at her milonga and kept me waiting ten minutes for a table.  Most organizers know their job is taking care of dancers, but she didn’t.  She heard about my post and told me I wasn’t welcome.  I was banned from one milonga, and I was ready for number two.

I know that there are many who are willing to remain silent, grit their teeth, and continue attending–all for tango.  That wasn’t the case for me.  I wrote about what was happening to my milonga home.  My comments reached the eyes of the new owners, as I knew they would.  One day I was personally escorted out the door after my entrada was returned. I went around the corner to Obelisco Tango which hosts milongas every day of the week, with many familiar faces from this milonga.

We all had our regular tables where we were comfortable.  These men sat together every Sunday.  There are no reserved seats anymore.

This milonga was different; it was like family when Celia was here. Everyone who went on Sundays felt the same.  You can see it in the photos.

Celia created a place for dancing.  She didn’t hire orquestas or professionals to perform, because she knew that her people came to dance.  When attendance was low, she offered free or reduced admission the first hour to fill the salon — and it worked.  She always charged less than other milongas.  It made sense to charge less than to close the doors.

The employees were there to do their jobs and take care of us.  And they always did it with a smile and courtesy.  They enjoyed working for Celia.

The staff worked together like a happy family.

It was nice being greeted by name at the door as you welcome a friend to your home.  That’s why this milonga was a home for so many of us.  It has changed over the past year now that Celia is gone.

Now there is only one milonga hosted by the owners.  Wednesday closed months ago.  Saturday has another organizer for almost a year.  Sunday is holding on for its life.  Alberto Frezza and Edit Lopez arranged to rent the salon on Friday nights. After eight weeks, they had built a regular following and had a viable milonga.  Then the owners demanded 25% more rent for the salon which they refused to pay.  They are looking for another venue.  The Friday milonga is now a pena folklorico starting July 21.

These are other stories I heard just this week through the tango grapevine.  If you want a tiny bucket of ice for your drink, you have to pay for it.  Ice!  The man who asked why was told if he didn’t like it, he could go elsewhere by the owner.  What’s next? Paying for napkins?  The raffle for a bottle of champagne is now only a glass of champagne.  I laughed hysterically when a friend told me this one yesterday.

I saw a neighbor the other day who still goes there on Sunday.  He said there are very few attending, but “it’s my home, so I go.”  The owners don’t get it.  You don’t just open the doors, expect people to show up, hand you their money and go home happy.  Celia took care of her dancers.  How long can a milonga survive with 40 in a salon that holds 150?





5 Responses to “The way it was”

  1. Suzanne Doyle Says:

    That’s really sad. Glad Obelisko is still there.

  2. Janet Rieck Says:

    Celia was always my anchor. I feel bad you have all abandoned her milonga because of new management. And worse because new management has no respect for its history and Celia. She deserves better. I am glad I got to go when Celia was there. Great person.

  3. jantango Says:

    People haven’t abandoned her milonga; they are disgruntled with the new owners who don’t appreciate what they were given by Celia. They’ve had more than a year to learn how to run a milonga and have failed miserably. The proof is only one milonga that is barely functioning with low attendance. You’d think they would listen to staff and regular dancers how to solve the situation. Now it’s too late. The milonga will never return to the way it was with Celia until a totally new management has charge.

    Watch this video of the first anniversary at Celia’s with a hired orquesta and professional dancers.

  4. Tango Tails Says:

    Such a sad tearful story. I may have commented on this before, but my memory is not as good as it used to be. I heard an interview on “TangoAngeles” with Ronaldo about this milonga with Celia, and also you too were interviewed by Ronaldo. It was how I found out about your blog. It was a lovely podcast, and I was so much looking forward to returning to Buenos Aires to attend this milonga. Low and behold, it closed before I could return. After hearing all of this news of the milongas closing, I’m starting to wonder if I should return? I also know that the locals may not like tourists invading their milongas, though I am one whom respects the codes and ladies with reverence. I was thinking about returning next March in 2018. What do you think?

  5. jantango Says:

    The locals are used to the foreign invasion to the milongas during the warmer months of the year, and they welcome it. Plan your visit. Stay several weeks to get comfortable enough that you want to return.

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