‘El Puchu’ – el milonguero 2007

Picture of El Puchu with Gabriella y yo On Wednesday night I was ‘la periodista’ (journalist), with my beautiful assistant and translator Gabriella, accompanying the contemporary milonguero, Puchu, on his ‘ruta’. What a rare treat the night was. Puchu gave his time freely, introduced us to many people and answered all my questions with frank honesty. The delightful bonus was that he danced with Gabriella and I all night! Wicked.

Puchu works the Milongas seven days a week. He visits three or four in one night to dance, relax, and to network with friends and other tango professionals. We met at 11pm at Dandi in San Telmo. I had not been there before. It is a small, traditional Milonga in a beautiful venue, frequented by milongueros.

After Dandi, Puchu normally heads to La Ideal, but as it was closed for an unknown reason we drove to the barrio Once to visit a barrio Milonga, arriving at about 1am. This was an incredible experience because this type of Milonga is not listed anywhere. It is a community Milonga  enjoyed by locals and professional dancers. To dance here was very special. Finally we drove to Club Armenia, La Viruta where we stayed until the close, 4.ooam on Wednesdays. Puchu visits different Milongas depending on the night of the week so our experience with him was a snapshot, a slice of his week’s work. He told us that the Milongas have been especially quiet because it is the end of the month. Less portenos are out because money is tighter at this time, and of course there are fewer tourists because the season is over.

See pictures of Dandi, San Telmo on a Wednesday night

Puchu has only danced tango for two and a half years, but he turned professional after eight months.  His background lies in the folkloric dances of Argentina. He was born in Canuelas which is a city 62km from Buenos Aires and his mother sent him to classes in folkloric dance from an early age. He hated the classes, but twenty six years later he is known for his amazing ability to perform and teach dances such as the chacerera and the beautiful and sensual zamba.  He teaches in the provinces around Buenos Aires as well as in the city itself. One fateful day, soon after the break up of a long term relationship, Puchu was driving in his car when he heard tango music and realised that he wanted to learn the tango. He was hooked from this moment, began attending the Milongas and apart from a series of classes with a milonguera, he taught himself tango by watching the milongueros dance. 

To dance with Puchu is an incredible experience. His energy is strong and his lead is clear and direct, giving his partner the ability to dance even the hardest moves with ease. When I dance with him I know that my mistakes will be few, even though he may lead specific ganchos, volcadas and colgadas that are new to me, and rarely led in the Milongas. His negotiation of even the most packed dance floor is an art form perfected. Today he performs in the Milongas with his dance partner who is also his wife, teaches and works to practice and perfect his dancing. He has travelled to Spain to teach, and will be returning there later this year. In the future perhaps he will travel more. He also has a day job to supplement his tango income. How he gets up at 9.30am to work after going to bed at 5.30am every night is beyond my imagination. He told me that he regards the Milongas as rest time. Incredible.

Puchu believes that great tango comes from passion in the soul, not from the technique. The technique can be learned, but the passion is the key. When he dances with new partners he seeks this passion, and especially a passion that connects with his. He told us that he knows of people who have experienced orgasm when dancing tango. My head spins…

I wondered how he selects who to invite to dance. Either he has watched them, or sometimes he notices that someone is not dancing and he wants them to dance. This answer made me laugh. After all he asked me a few weeks back in La Viruta. I obviously looked like a wall flower! I comfort myself in the fact that he has danced with me many times since…  he tells me he feels my passion. Certainly it is there and he is not the first person to have commented on it. Phew!

I asked Puchu what he thinks of the foreigners who come to Buenos Aires for tango. In his opinion we are essential for the continuation of tango, we bring the money that keeps the tango scene alive here. Commercially, foreigners are vital. The downsides can be that foreigners do not always understand the etiquettes of the Milongas, for example how to negotiate the dance floor. This is an etiquette that the milongueros prize. On a busy ‘pista’ it is essential that every leader maintains the flow of the ‘camino’ (path) around the floor. Sometimes foreigners who are relatively new to tango can cause blockages and disrupt the flow of other dancers. We talked about the ritual behind the ‘cabeceo’, the invitation/contract to dance. He told of how a milonguero, if refused by a woman, may even go as far as to change his shoes and leave the Milonga. The woman will have a black mark. She may never be asked again by the same man, and certainly not for years. I make a note of this.

Puchu dresses smartly for the Milongas. It is part of the tango experience for him to look elegant, sharp. However hot he gets he never takes his jacket off. His hair is always slicked back. He looks the part. It works. This was one reason I noticed him originally, on my first night in BA. I guess you could call it marketing. He is noticeable, for his looks, his elegance but most of all for his dancing. He regards himself as a milonguero of today, and of the future. He respects the older milongueros who have taught him, and one day he will be one of them, teaching and inspiring the next generation of milongueros. What am I saying? Of course, he already is.

I would like to thank El Puchu for his time and kindness in showing me a slice of tango life here that I would not have otherwise seen. He asked me to end my post with a quote and so I do and hope that one day we may see him dance in England:

En la milonga se puede tener mujer y amante. Como mujer tengo La Ideal y como amante, Club Gricel.       

El Puchu 2007.


5 Responses

  1. Squeezing reading your blog in between getting up at a ridiculously early hour – at least it is light this time of year -and leaving for work, I am magicked to another world…feel the winter sun, hear the wistful music, remember boat trips to brazilian islands and stays in simple lodgings, stand in queues clutching my numbered ticket! I love the honest way you recreate and share your world through the blog; it reawakens memories and nudges me to reflect on my own life. Your enthusiasm for life is contagious;facing the motorway I feel more alive this morning!

  2. Can’t believe that you have achieved so much in such a short time Sal; you really are a true adventurer and an inspiration making us realise that anything is possible in this life. Amazing to be able to watch your passion for tango and live a little of the adventure with you. Live the dream -Steve thinks this could make a great film one day!

  3. Oooooh, I love this post. It’s very profound and I, too, have learned something from your post.

    I love the quote “great tango comes from passion in the soul, not from technique. Technique can be learned, but passion is the key.”

    They do go hand-in-hand…and if you work on them both, it makes a lovely marriage. Not that passion needs working on since it is the the calling of what makes you feel like living a your favorite dream. *warm smile*

  4. Che… how disappointing. I emailed your dance teacher to take classes with him after your blog and now I read this…El Puchu? Milonguero? Stands out for his dancing? I should be asking Ariel what he taught you. (no, no, I am not a malicious dumped ex-lover of his! I know his lovely wife and see the guy every day at my barrio and at milongas. Sorry, he cannot dance at all, and the sad part is he is trying to teach. Granted, his marketing works)

  5. Oksana

    I’m delighted you emailed Ariel. He is my teacher and friend: one of the few constants over my time here.
    As I am sure you can imagine, time has changed many things for me here both in tango and in life and these were just happy moments on the way. I celebrate every person I have danced with or met on my journey. They have all had something to teach me and I am grateful for that.


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