With its progressive laws and legislation, and efforts toward becoming a more inclusive society, Argentina has recently come to exemplify what the LGBTQ+ community strives for worldwide. In particular, 2010’s “La Ley de Matrimonio Igualitario – Ley 26.618” (Marriage Equality Bill), extended marriage equality to all while also permitting same-gender couples to adopt. 2012’s “Ley de identidad de género” (Gender Identity Law), guaranteed the trans community the right to gender identity without discrimination and the right to dignified treatment.
As a result of this progress, Buenos Aires today has become one of the top destinations for queer travelers, with a thriving queer community, vibrant nightlife, and most important of all, a sense of safety. Queer milongas, also known as queer tango, furthers this tradition.
History of Tango
Argentina’s love affair with tango began during the late 1800s with the arrival of Italian and Spanish immigrants on the shores of the Río de la Plata. The vast majority were young, single men trying to make their way in the world. Although the city suffered from a lack of women, the port city’s brothels provided these travelers with a variety of dancing partners.
As Argentina’s wealth increased, learning tango in rougher neighborhoods became a rite of passage for the city’s wealthy young men, as was travel abroad. Interest in tango spread as they demonstrated their dancing skills in Parisian bars and by the early 1910s, the dance eventually reached the United States. However, by then it had become a much less sexualized.
After the “Golden Age” of tango of the 1940s, World War II’s military dictatorships forced it underground. It finally resurfaced during the 1980s after the Falklands War, with a new generation of dancers.
What are Queer Milongas (Queer Tango parties)?
Queer milongas are dance parties and safe gathering places for Argentina’s LGBTQ+ tango community. They emerged during the 1990s while remaining a part of the underground culture, only increasing in visibility in recent years with the progress that the LGBTQ+ community has achieved. Buenos Aires’ first milonga was 2002’s, LA MarSHàlL event organized by Augusto Balizano. By 2003, Balizano, along with organizers Edgardo and Roxana Gargano, were running the Wednesday night queer milonga that continues to present day. Held at La Salsera one Wednesday per month, practica (basic instruction) begins at 8:30 pm, with the milonga following at 10 pm.
Traditionally, tango follows strict conventions: men choose their partners and lead while women follow. Queer tango does not subscribe to these rigid gender-based norms. However, in the words of 2005’s Milonga Tango Queer’s manifesto writer Mariana Docampo, queer tango grew out of the need for “creating a ‘liberated’ tango environment where rules and codes of traditional tango are not taken into account and … [do not] restrain communication between people[.]” Nowadays, queer tango “is taking over this chauvinistic emblem that excludes diversity from the structure of the dance itself and promotes power relationships amongst genders.”
Beginners, single individuals, and visitors are welcome. However, it is recommended that one attends a practica class beforehand for basic instruction. Queer milongas can also be found in northern Europe and the United States as well.
Milonga Tango Queer
One of the most famous queer milongas, Milonga Tango Queer, was created in 2005 by Mariana Docampo in an attempt to liberate individuals from tango’s strict norms. Held in Buenos Aires’ famed (and oldest) San Telmo neighborhood, you can participate in a tango class and practica at Bar Simón en su Laberinto and a weekly lesson and practica at Casa Brandon. Docampo’s autobiography, “Tango Queer Buenos Aires,” is set to be released in December 2019 with writings about tango and gender identity in Argentina.
Tango Queer International Festival
In addition to milongas, Tango Queer also organizes various activities and cultural events, such as the Queer Tango Festival of Buenos Aires, whose goal is to allow individuals to dance without fixed gender roles. The XIII Festival internacional de Tango Queer en Buenos Aires is also held yearly. Founded in 2007 by Mariana Docampo, Roxana Gargano, and Augusto Balizano, this festival celebrates the diversity in tango as dancers, teachers, and choreographers from around the world come together. Held over five days, the festival includes tango classes, four milongas, 12 workshops, concerts, and art. The festival is open to the public and anyone who supports respect for diversity in and from tango.
Although queer travelers often have a great deal more to consider when planning a trip abroad, Buenos Aires remains a popular destination thanks to its safety, a vibrant nightlife, large queer community, and food scene. The next time you are planning a LGBTQ+ friendly vacation, consider Buenos Aires and stop by a queer milonga to learn some new steps.
Do you know anything about queer culture in Buenos Aires?