Friday, November 2, 2018

A California Tango?

California has a long and illustrious history of contacts with Chile, about which I’ve regularly written, but its relations with Argentina have been less conspicuous. Perhaps the most infamous episode was an invasion by the Franco-Argentine privateer Hipólito Bouchard, who occupied the Presidio of Monterey for six days in 1818, when the area was still under Spanish rule.
The sheet music for La Reina, Francisca Carrillo Vallejo's tango
Last week, though, I found a new and somewhat enigmatic connection when I accompanied a Buenos Aires visitor to the Oakland Museum of California. There I found, behind a vitrine in the Gallery of California History, the sheet music to “La Reina,” described as a California tango by Francisca Carrillo Vallejo. Published in 1925, when Carlos Gardel was at his peak, the song probably reflects the early 20th-century globalization of this distinctively Argentine music and dance.
General Mariano Vallejo, grandfather of the tango composer
There is scant online information about this piece of music, but the museum's Program Administrator Eileen Hansen informed me that the author was the granddaughter of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a Californio who spent his life under Spanish, Mexican, and US governments. Ironically enough, Vallejo (born 1807, d. 1890) would have been a boy in Monterey when Bouchard occupied the Presidio. Unfortunately, Ms. Harris could not access the sheet music from the vitrine on short notice, so I’ve been unable to see the lyrics.
This house on San Francisco's Filbert Street was the home address for the song's publisher.
From the limited genealogical information available, I’ve not been able to determine Francisca’s exact lineage, but there were three Vallejo sons who might have been her father (there were also several Vallejo daughters, but their children would have had different surnames). The señorita depicted on the sheet music would appear more appropriate to a Mexican ranchera than an Argentine tango but, coming from an apparently Anglo publisher—Dudley and Barrett—that stereotype is perhaps unsurprising.

I look forward to reading the lyrics, eventually, and learning more about this topic.

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