First Tango in Buenos Aires

Angela Morgan on uncovering one of Argentina's historical mysteries.

A search for the place where the tango first became widely known may well result in the uncovering of one of Argentina's greatest historical mysteries – the precise origins of the city of Buenos Aires. This summer, Dr Daniel Schavelzon of the University of Buenos Aires, is planning to undertake an archeological excavation of the site of Hansen's Caffee.

Located in downtown Buenos Aires, Hansen’s Caffee was founded by Juan Hansen, a German expatriate, in 1877. Unusually it attracted two very different types of clientele. At weekends, it was the haunt of the aristocracy; but after midnight, rich young men mixed with people from the poorest classes to listen to and dance the tango.

As Adolfo Bioy stated in his book Antes del 1900, 'Hansen's Restaurant was the entertainment centre of light-headed women. They danced the tango before this music became fashionable and accepted in the high circles of the city. We used to attend once in a while when we wanted to have fun, no matter the risks of getting into trouble with the dangerous men that one could find there'.

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