la Murga Porteña

from the barrio. biking by

For a moment, I was from the barrio, I was a Chiflado de Boedo, and I was dancing my heart out. I was lucky to simply stumble upon murga, and to muster the guts to try. Looking back… the ensayos (practices), the cursus (performances), the micros (buses) and foremost, the people who took me in – all helped make this the most dazzling part of my life in Buenos Aires. The story begins below (after a youtube vid of some BsAs Murga to give you a sense of what this is), and will continue in further posts.

how i found los chilflados
and became one

I don’t think I blinked the first time.

150 people, from little children on up, were flailing their arms, kicking wildly, swaying, jumping, and all were smiling. I’m not sure if you can dance Murga without smiling.

I was on one of my first bike rides in Buenos Aires and I came upon one of the larger parks I had seen. It was big enough that I didn’t hear the drums at first, but the groups of young people sitting around begged my curiosity.

los ninos follow the choreographies

los ninos follow the choreographies

Soon I was following the raging drums until I came upon the group, plain clothed, advancing slowly in a big circular, unending march. I asked a young kid named David what I was witnessing, and he wrote down the name of the group and the days they practiced in my trusty notebook (Thank your for that notebook Itamar and Dorin). He was willing to speak slowly and bear with me. I think he said he and his parents were from Bolivia and were visiting family. He really wanted to ride my bike.

After I moved into Caballito, I made a pact to take a good walk somewhere new everyday. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had unknowingly moved in 15 blocks from that same park where I first saw la Murga, parque Chacabuco. Que suerte… soy del barrio (casi).

I returned the next Saturday and timidly tried doing the movements a few feet off to the side and the next Thursday I was a bit bolder and asked if I could dance in the back of the procession and try the men’s choreographies. It was that day that Leo who always danced in back, a sheepherder of sorts, yelled to Gustavo up front to watch me… el Janqui (the Yankee) was doing the moves. When people addressed me directly I was “my friend,” (pronounced without the “d”), but when people spoke about me it was always Janqui. Slightly derogatory but that’s fine. I was also called “White Boy” at the West End House of Brighton at age 11, and I wore it like a badge of honor. For a while Leo even called me Obama.

Probably half jokingly, someone suggested I should dance in Carnival with them that Saturday. I needed a pair of white sneakers and I needed to be “at the corner” at 7:00pm to catch the bus. I was told that the bus was the best part.

I went straight to Once, where I had also picked up my used, unlocked cellphone, and grabbed a pair of white, converse, low-top, knock-offs for about $10.

When I got there, the kids were already dressed. It was the first time I actually saw the outfits: the tassles, the characters and symbols drawn in a sequined mosaic. The kids were already buzzing and practicing their choreographies. The guys in contrast were sitting against a cement wall drinking the metric equivalent of 40ozs. We didn’t seem to be in a huge rush. 7pm really meant 9:30pm, every week. Everyone wanted me to come over to their group, “My fren, veni veni…” to hear the one english phrase they knew or to share whatever they were smoking or drinking. My favorite English phrase, repeated pretty often was “Hasta la vista, baby.” It was my favorite mostly because it’s not English, and hearing Spanish speakers imitating Swarzenager speaking Spanish is a fairly ridiculous thing.

The speech was fast and full of slang, Lunfardo. Dirty:) del barrio. Boedo or nearby. Only two girls really knew English. Everyone had learned some in highschool, but most had no practical use for it, or a place to practice… a word or two remained. I don’t think many had the opportunity to go to university.

I leaned up against something on the corner trying to understand the conversation. A guy tapped me on the arm and motioned for me to come away from the thing I was leaning on while saying something I didn’t catch at all. I looked and saw its surface had little feathers stuck to it. Great, my arm started tingling… what the…

Shit, the buses are leaving. GO.

me know
what you think
just remember i have feelings too