"Adios Arrabal"

Esta musica es muy envolvente! Que voz que tiene el señor!
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx- Alejandra


ADIOS ARRABAL, D’Agostino con Vargas


Sweet arrabal morning,
with no tough guys on the sidewalks,
or neighborhood girls on the balconies.

The streetlights are turned off,
and there are no young rebels left
in your narrow old street.  

I sing to you with venom,
pride, and bitterness,
now that I am separated from you.

Goodbye, arrabal porteño…
I was your slave, and also your master,
and now I give you my last goodbye.

Dear mother, I was a bad son,
and now I see that in your arms,
I was full of happiness.

Tell me dear mother,
where is the young girlfriend
that I can’t forget? 

Now I've come back repentant,
a grown man, and a better person,
to the life that was my home.

Sorry, but your son
has a thought in his head
that no one will ever change. 

The “Rodriguez Pena” dance hall…
el Mocho y el Cachafaz…
dancers from the old milongas,
that will never return.

Carnivals of my life…
wild nights… and finally,
the young friends who have fled
from that old arrabal.

Mañanita arrabalera
sin taitas por las veredas
ni pibas en el balcón.

Los faroles apagados
y los guapos retobados
en tu viejo callejon.

Yo te canto envenena’o
engrupido y amarga'o,
hoy me separo de vos.

Adios arrabal porteño…
yo fui tu esclavo y tu dueño,
y te doy mi último adios.

Madrecita yo fui un reo,
y en tus brazos hoy me veo
lleno de felicidad.

¿Dime mi buena viejita,
donde está  mi noviecita
que no la puedo olvidar?

Hoy ya vuelvo arrepentido
hecho más hombre y más bueno
a la vida del hogar.

Perdoname que tu hijo
tiene un pensamiento fijo
y nadie lo hara cambiar.

El baile Rodríguez Peña…
el Mocho y el Cachafaz…
de la milonga porteña,
que nunca más volvera.

Carnavales de mi vida…
noches bravas… y al final,
los espiantes de las pibas
en aquel viejo arrabal.


Farol” and “Adios Arrabal” take up a huge chunk of tango territory. They cover the two great themes of tango: nostalgia, and the arrabal. These are interesting subjects because, like most things in tango, they're made up of contradictory elements.

Today, the average porteño probably has mixed feelings about the neighborhoods of his youth—which is the subject of “Adios Arrabal”. Vargas’ lyrics flirt with anger, affection, and contempt all at the same time. The first word of this tango is “mañanita”. This is a diminutive form of “mañana” (morning), and it literally means “little morning”, or "early in the morning"… but in Spanish, the diminutive can also be a term of affection. So “madre” becomes “madrecita”, and “vieja” become “viejita”. The visitor in “Adios Arrabal” has returned to his neighborhood to say goodbye. He begins nostalgically… “Sweet morning in the arrabal”, but his memories are mixed. The people are beautiful, but they are also tough, and difficult. He says he felt like he was a slave, but also a master. He is bitter and angry, but also proud (“envenena’o” means “full of venom”). So, he despises the arrabal, but he also misses it… to the point where he actually apologizes for having silly, sentimental feelings stuck in his head that “no one can change.”

A sweet Sunday morning in Barracas.
Mañanita arrabalera…” A sweet Sunday morning in Barracas.


A couple of notes: I think maybe the “madrecita” he talks to in the middle part could actually represent the arrabal itself. But Alej and my profesora think that he really is talking to his mother, because a close relationship with mom and family is a characteristic of machismo arrabalero. It makes sense either way. So like "mañanita", which could mean either "early morning", or "sweet morning", "madrecita" adds a bit of ambiguity. Which is the art of it.

The Buenos Aires street word “espiantarse” turns up again. I translated it as “slips away” two pages back (“How life slips away”). Here it is used to describe the singer’s old friends who have “fled” the arrabal. I checked a little further, and found that it’s not in common usage that much, but most people are familiar with it. Like a lot of language, it tells us a about the people and the culture. It’s a variation of an Italian word, and they use it specifically to describe escaping from the cops, the way a criminal runs away. Sort of makes sense that a specialized word like that would pop up among the poor Italian immigrants in turn of the century BsAs.

Tangos like “Farol” and “Adios Arrabal” offer insights into the soul of Argentina, and also of tango itself. While the raucous old neighborhoods did contain a lot of knife-wielding characters, they also seemed to inspire people. Writers, poets, musicians and dancers seemed to thrive there, and the tradition of working class artists that exists today in Buenos Aires has roots in the arrabal. The city is full of taxi drivers who write poetry, and construction workers who play music. A couple of weeks ago the orchestra from Teatro Colon staged a free outdoor concert in Parque Palermo for people who could never afford to go to the theater. In many cities an orchestra playing classical music in the park wouldn’t have been any big deal, but Buenos Aires is different. More than 100,000 people showed up, and it brought our part of town to a standstill.


"Cortada El Farol” by Sra. Estela Di Paola
"Cortada El Farol” by Sra. Estela Di Paola. When the mother of my profesora
heard that I was working on “Farol”, she painted this picture.
Note that the light of the farol only illuminates a part
of the cortada—the short, dead-end street.


Last week our water heater began acting up—on a Friday afternoon of course. I happened to grab a plumber down the block who was just leaving for the weekend. He was a very tough looking man, and he had a young assistant who was pierced, tattooed, and dirty—the kind of guys you watch out for on the streets late at night. I talked them into coming over to check the water heater. Alej was a little upset that I invited them into the house, because they really did look dangerous, but they were able to fix the heater in about ten minutes, and when they finished, the plumber asked me if I had bought the house. I said yep, and he said, well you bought it from the sister of Maximiliano Guerra (which is true). His assistant said, ahh, but I think Julio Bocca is better than Guerra… and then they began to discuss the relative merits of the two most famous ballet dancers in Argentina. (And they also refused to accept any payment for fixing the heater). I love this place. 

In December of 2007, Julio Boca danced on a stage set up in front of the Obelisco. It was a free performance
for the people who couldn't afford a ticket to Teatro Colon... and half a million people showed up!
Where else but Buenos Aires?