Tango Story: Death Of A Milonga
Story | Martin van Kesteren | 05/09/2020 | Views: 461 | Comments: 0 | Shares

I read somewhere that nineteenth century Buenos Aires went through regular  Yellow Fever outbreaks, wiping out up to 8% of the population in a matter of months. Still, Yellow Fever is a mild virus, afflicting only 15% of the population with notable symptoms. Sound familiar? Shortage of doctors , new disease? Streets were emptied, businesses closed and people fled to the countryside as the average death toll in the city went from 20 to 500 a day. Train loads of corpses departed every morning for La Chacarita cemetery. Dances were prohibited, but, as time passed, tango continued to emerge. This too shall pass. 

Yeah but how? Someone presented this weird idea to me. The idea was, to let all people entering the milonga sign a statement, saying they waive their rights to be treated for COVID-19. ‘You can just leave me at home alone, with heaving chest, and I’ll accept nobody shall treat me’, the statement would explicitly say. The guy explaining the idea to me really believed in its merits. ‘This way, only people who think they will survive without treatment will come to the milonga’, he argued. ‘Everybody slightly in doubt will stay at home! And if they fall terribly ill afterwards, hey, it’s on them and not on you!’ Call me stupid, but I was so willing to open the milonga that it took me a while to figure out what was wrong with the idea.

Another suggestion was to have a two-stream milonga. One night for dancers above the age of sixty-five and one night for younger dancers. An interesting idea, but obviously mostly put forward by people under sixty-five. I didn’t have to think long about that one either.  So we’ll probably end up simply taking reservations and recording names and numbers. Of course, there will be some people resisting the whole thing, and other people resisting their resisting. We’ll get used to the concern about contamination, hanging over each dance. The whole thing will still slightly reek of Russian Roulette and that will probably be the only vaguely exciting part of the new normal.

Fortunately, we have this wonderful capacity for forgetting. We will heal our wounds. We will forget who said what, on FaceBook, when they were in pain. We’re going to smother all that with generous hugs. We will simply admit to all those friends who were right about everything, that indeed, they were right, and that we should have listened to their warnings, and can we get on with it now? What about those friendly dancers, who re-posted deep-state conspiracy analyses written by holocaust deniers? We are going to celebrate their humanity with a warm embrace. We’ll also forgive ourselves, for the few times that we were so frustrated, that we actually read all the comments to one of those posts.

I’m not exactly sure about a reopening date and time, however, I will say this:  the milonga may be dead, but it’s waiving its hand again from the coffin.


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