Friday, February 1, 2008

Tired of the Tango?

Apparently Mauricio Macri is, or at least the newly elected mayor of Buenos Aires is tired of the people who have run the highly successful Festival de Tango for most of the last ten years. One of his first actions on taking office was to fire those in charge of the festival, which normally follows Brazilian Carnaval in late summer (February or early March). The pugnacious Macri has been trying, with limited success, to rid city government of ñoquis (ghost employees whose primary duties are picking up their paychecks at month's end), and this may have been part of his long-term strategy.

After Macri's functionary Hernán Lombardi denied the festival would be suspended, he replaced the staff with his own people, who then shifted it to August to precede the annual Mundial de Tango (World Tango Championships). Together, the two will fill the last two weeks of August, but visitors who planned their trips around the February/March event will be disappointed. There's still plenty of tango, but nothing quite matches the festival's critical mass of talent, both musicians and dancers. It's possible that next year's event will return to its normal schedule.

Economically speaking, tango is a critical part of the tourist economy. According to a recent Reuters article, it brings in US$450 million year year, about ten percent of all entertainment spending in Buenos Aires, and the "tango economy" is growing 25 percent annually. Giant dinner clubs with tango shows, such as the Esquina Carlos Gardel, charge upwards of US$100 per person and are running full, even though few Argentines (other than the performers) go anywhere near them.

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