The Legend of the Ceibo Tree

(Photo by Karen Blix)

The Ceibo is both the national tree and flower of Argentina. It is very resistant to both ice and fire and it has inspired tangos, poetry and folklore music as a symbol of courage and strength in the face of adversity.

According to legend, there was once an indigenous woman named Anahí who lived on the shores of the Paraná River. She was small and unsightly, however, her looks were forgotten on summer nights when she came to sing with her beautiful voice to her tribe about their gods and the love of their land.

When the conquistadors came to conquer the land, they took Anahí and others from her tribe as prisoners. One night, the guard of her cell fell asleep and Anahí saw a chance of escaping. The guard, however, woke up just as she was getting away and so she stabbed him. His dying holler startled the rest of the soldiers and Anahí was unable to escape. Her punishment for killing the man was to burn at the stake.

On the night of her sentence, she was tied to a tree and a fire was lit. The flames quickly caught on and the indigenous woman began to sing to her land and her nature.

The following morning, the soldiers stood astounded at the spot of her death. In place of the ashes they had expected to find, there was a blooming Ceibo tree showing off its splendorous red flowers.

Illustrious Argentines: Carlos Gardel

(Photo by Sebastian-Dario)

Carlos Gardel is a controversial Argentine icon. For starters, he wasn’t born in Argentina; according to the official version he was born on the 11th of December of 1890 in Toulouse, France but many dispute he was an illegitimate child born in Uruguay. At the age of three he moved  with his mother from France to Buenos Aires.  They settled in the neighborhood of Abasto but it wasn´t until later on in his life that he was nationalized as an Argentine.

His music career began early on after dropping out of high school. He already had a great singing voice and was baptized “El Zorzal Criollo” (The Criollo Thrush) by one of his first musical influences, José Betinotti with whom he sang duets, who encouraged him to start singing popular songs at the neighborhood cafes and bars.  Together they recorded their first album and began touring, acquiring increasing popularity. Gardel then went on to star in the silent film “Flor de Durazno”  which brought him even more attention and it was during this period that he began to sing tangos renewing the genres identity.  In 1918 he recorded Flor de Fango and in 1919  De Vuelta al Bulín, progressively building his career.

In 1923 he formed the duet Gardel-Razzano until the later began having trouble with his voice and became Gardel’s manager. Once more as a solo singer his fame skyrocketed as he became increasingly popular in Spain and France.

The talented singer and songwriter began to interact with the silver screen once again on the production of 15 short films, and on one of his trips to France he formed a friendship with non other than Charles Chaplin who opened new doors to him. In 1931 he signed a contract with Paramount pictures to record Luces de Buenos Aires which was musicalized by several tango composers of the time. The film became a hit with the Spanish public and it is said that movie theatres were often asked to pause and rewind the film to play the part where Gardel sang over and over.

His cinematographic and musical career continued to expand and he moved to New York where he participated in many productions until he died in a plane crash in Medellin, Colombia, in 1935.

The talented “Zorzal Criollo” has since become the most remembered tango legend the Buenos Aires streets have seen.

More on Carlos Gardel can be seen in his Abasto house which is now a museum that not only shows exhibits on Gardel and other influential tango composers and singers, but also stages live music and screenings of tango films. Jean Jaurés 735, Abasto. 4964-2015.