The tango is urban music from Buenos Aires. It was born at the end of the last century. The millions of immigrants who arrived in Argentina at that time created the necessary environment for the beginning of tango. Most of the immigrants, who were poor, settled in Buenos Aires. However that city was not ready yet to receive such a large number of people. Many unscrupulous persons took advantage of the situation and built precarious buildings with lots of rooms or remodeled
big houses from the colonial years. For many years the immigrants as well as the poor people from Buenos Aires had to live in those tenement buildings.
Their poor living conditions produced an increase in disease, alcoholism, prostitution, and many other problems. There was also resentment between the native people and the foreigners who wanted to find a place in that society. The working class plunged into sadness and hopelessness. Those were precisely the feelings that gave musicians and poets the inspiration to create tango.
At the beginning, tango was a melody; over the years some urban poets began to write lyrics. Those first lyrics tell us about the underworld life, describing characters who lived in the tenement houses. Tango lyrics referred to the “guapo” who was feared, respected, and envied among the people of the neighborhood because he was courageous and loyal; the “compadrito” who was a quarrelsome coward who used to provoke fights just to show off in front of other people; the “cafischio” (pimp) who did not like working but was fond of fine clothes, jewelry, and perfume. In order to get all those things, he exploited women who worked for him as prostitutes.
The stories of young women who were born in crowded tenements and endured poverty were frequently found in tango lyrics. When they were lured with false promises by the pimps, the women worked in cabarets, enduring a life of prostitution and exploitation that was very difficult to escape.
Trough many of those lyrics we learn about the ways those women were discriminated against and mistreated by a machista society. Sometimes the inspiration for a tango was a real woman who had died very young after a horrible life filled with disease and anguish, whose story could only be found in hospitals files.