La Plata, Argentina — On a crisp and cloudless, pre-autumnal night in the beginning of March, a little less than a week after Ash Wednesday and the close of Carnival, we stroll under stars that poke through the orange haze of the cities’ light pollution and the towering Eucalyptus trees lining the walkways of El Bosque,
El Teatro Martin Fierro was built in 1948-49 near an artificial lake during the affluent Peron years as a summer alternative to the growing popularity of the Teatro Argentino, a trend that continues to this day. It is an amphitheater built in the neo-classical style, like many other public buildings here constructed during
Martin Fierro and his eponymous Teatro is the most important epic poem of
We have come tonight because we could not make it to
As I look around, I see the slow deterioration that has worn itself upon what must have been a truly magnificent theater in its’ day. The fortunes of present day
The Murga are dressed in the pachuco Zuit Suits of 1940s east Los Angeles. Their faces are painted to look feline or grotesque. They begin the concert by asking the audience, What is Murga? Murga is something vigorous, rebellious, flashy, exhalative, nostalgic. The voices are loud, piercing at times. The singers jiggle up and down or lurch about the stage pantomiming, as if they were twirling flags at Carnival in procession on the streets of Montevideo or pointing out a beautiful woman in the crowd while the guitarist strums simple rhythms off to the side and the batteria stand defiantly from behind on an elevated platform. There is a feisty political number that sounds a lot like rap about the individual problems of countries like
There is a back and forth song where people from opposing sides,
I am struck by the joy and melancholy inherent in these Latin celebrations. Festivities are encouraged to break limits that our solidified and, by comparison, Puritanical northern culture could not accept. The police would have to be called in, along with the tear gas. We do not seek out such an experience on this edge between ecstasy and death. We save ourselves for private functions, in the comfort of our own homes. We do not demand that the authorities and what’s more, life, submit, if for only a fleeting moment, to our demands. Maybe we should.