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Gabino Ezeiza: Martín Fierro in Buenos Aires

The “Santos Vega Negro” projects its influence on the Buenos Aires song. The bridge between the countryside and the city that lives in the DNA of tango by the idol of Carlos Gardel.

Gabino Ezeiza

“ I believe that the payador played a decisive role in the gestation of tango . Whoever revises the first period will warn that this owes much to the Pampas music, of which the payador was active spokesman,” said Osvaldo Pugliese, the great pianist and composer of tangos, there the immortal “La Yumba” Edmundo Rivero used to present himself as “a payador frustrated,  although something of them preserved in my way of singing tango,” assured the unmistakable voice of “Sur ” But not only did tangueros recognize this debt of the Buenos Aires culture to the payadors, but a milonguero de law stated, “the payador seems to me a test of skill, talent, a rather difficult art because not anyone can speak in rhyme like that, spontaneously,” Jorge Luis Borges said  in a report to the magazine “Rincón del Payador” in 1980.  And all agreed that the greatest exponent had undoubtedly been Gabino Ezeiza, a black who was a revolutionary with the guitar, modernized the old gaucha cadence by bringing it closer to the milonga, and with ideas, a radical Hipólito Yrigoyen of arms take for universal suffrage, and equality of rights.   Or that he was thundering with his “Heroic Paysandú” whoever wants to hear, one of the first themes for the Latin American brotherhood.  An Afro-Argentinian who motivated that Frenchman arrived in 1893 to escape from the pension of Uruguay Street and looked at the aura, and the prstancia, of Santos Vega Negro. A few years later another disciple of Gabino, José Betinotti, would give the boy his eternal nickname, The Creole Thrush. It was  Carlos Gardel.   

Gabino is a dilect son of Buenos Aires, it is more, a famous poem by Hector Pedro Blomberg in his homage recite “Buenos Aires de mi love/Oh, city where I was born/Do not throw me into oblivion/I that i have been your singer”, then milonga by Enrique Maciel.  Because although he played in theatres and circuses in the country, Gabino preferred to go into the bars and pulperías of the Buenos Aires neighborhoods of entresiglos, carrying national singing in the courtyards that mixed bluff malevos, committee compadritos, immigrants wanting to learn a new culture and gauchos urbanized.   However, it was not an easy time for Afro-Argentines discriminated against, and Gabino had the stigma of his kind of child. His birth certificate of 1858 recorded it in San Telmo, Calle Chacabuco 242, with the insulting “of color”, and omitting the obvious “black”, on a date that is discussed between the 3rd, or the settled February 19. At the age of 18 he began to collaborate in a newspaper of the black community with a series of stories, “The bouquet of flowers”, under the pseudonym  liberato  (sic), and which would then give an exceptional “Critical Judgment of Literature”. The article defended the master-disciple bond that would guide them for life, and in passing it fell, “because by the emergencies of life, by virtue of the lineage, we cannot go where intelligence is grown”, making clear their intellectual flight. even though Black people were prevented from educating themselves. These are the years he began to become involved in politics and actively participated in the defense of  Buenos Aires in 1880  along with the secessionist side of Carlos Tejedor. He was decorated for his bravery in the Battle of Los Corrales -now Parque Patricios- by General Hilario Lagos (son), who was a prominent Buenos Aires military in the self-called Conquest of the Desert.

 The crier of the Alba de la Patria 

The payador was the first popular artist to tour towns and cities of the future republic, knowing no other Argentine songbook than the one played by the payadors, until well entered the first years of the last century. Ismael Moya says in “The art of the payadors” (1959), “The Payador de la Independencia made school and his descendants spread throughout the landscapes of the homeland. It was their mission rather than aesthetic, missionary, and they fulfilled it.”  Their strumming full of ingenious and flammable lyrical was the integrative social agent in rancheríos and pulperias, where in addition to country life, horse, and desert scenes, they included news, and dissemination oacute; n, before an unpublished public. The payador's figure was the true and only national sound art accepted, and cultivated, by all Argentine populations without exception. This is evident in the  “Facundo” of Sarmiento,  the payador one of the four archetypical figures of the gaucho, and in the”  Martín Fierro”  by José Hernández, who would be elevated to national poem with “El Payador” by Leopoldo Lugones. The clown was a verbal duel of singing and guitar, which once lasted for hours and hours, sometimes endlessly, until the death of the defeated payer, according to legend.  The payer in Gabino's time preserved and enriched the traditions and culture of the pampa that disappeared, and bequeathed them to future generations, folklorists of the forties and fifties with Atahualpa Yupanqui and Maria Elena Walsh, and the new songbook Mercedes Sosa and Horacio Guarany.  The tenths that evoked the freedom, and fraternity, of a campaign without wires remained to be taken care of, cultivate them and perpetuate them.

  Payador's Day  in Argentina recalls Gabino Ezeiza's first professional performance in Uruguay, on July 23, 1884.   Gabino began to forge a name with the gradual incorporation of milonga and habanera (in the genesis of tango), and annexing to the quarteta, leaflets, tenth and endecasyllable verses, reinforcing the stanzas (then inspiring tango composers like Ángel Villoldo). That day in 1884 his opponent was eastern Juan de Nava, another notable payer. At a time when the Uruguayan lashed with some stanzas of the Faust of Argentinean Estanislao del Campo,  Gabino debuts one of the first songs of the Latin American report, “Heroico Paysandú”, “te singing my homeland like hero/i keep this memory of my homeland stuck in a breeze your song on/... brothers in the struggles and glories/Heroic Paysandú I greet you/the troy and American glory to have/greeting this town of brave/and swear of the braves thirty-three”  finishes the Bardo porteño, well known at that time for “The extraordinary auction” and “The death of Agapito& rdquo;

Around 1890 Gabino Ezeiza began to be mentioned with admiration in Los Locos Alegres, bar located on current Cordoba and Cerrito avenues. “Because of its location and the social quality of the people who frequented it, the Florida Garden (on Florida Street and the current Cordoba Avenue) was stubbornly requested by the best circus companies... Los Podestá, according to Raúl Castagnino in “El circus Creollo” ,  “on the night of March 13, 1892 they performed a function with... Gabino Ezeiza, occasion that gives rise to the attendance of personalities among whom is that of the President of the Republic himself, Dr. Carlos Pellegrini”, closes with the payador in the role of stellar of the performances of the pioneers of the Argentine theatre.

 Between memorable meetings of the end of the century transcended the duel that Negro Gabino, in the fullness of his career, held with Pablo J. Vázquez around 1894, at the Florida Theatre in Pergamino.   This interest aroused the same that the newspaper La Prensa sent as a chronicler to cover the payada to educator Joaquín V. González, future minister of the Nation. They say that Vazquez, with certain studies, releases that there is a difference between them. Gabino retrucates, “The difference that exists is easy to calculate, that I improviso light and you get to think” Then Vázquez breaks a guitar string, “Is he cut a string at this very moment and if a string dissounds my thought is truncated” Gabino picks up the glove, “Certain is missing a string and heard it the meeting, the string of feeling that gives so much vibration”,  topped those who asked for various themes from a really impressive variety of everyday and historical issues, “Women's eyes”, “Saint Martin and Artigas”, “Ituzaing & oacute;” and “Marriage”   One of Gabino Ezeiza's best-known anecdotes of those times was in a Dolores Theatre and that challenged him to improvise on changing light projections. Zoology, geography, history and dozens of branches of knowledge rhyme one after another before a stunned auditorium.  

“A literary or political discussion or of any kind, before my song, would nullify any subsequent creation. I am deeply involved in the interior created by me, in what I am creating, to remember and what I must create,” Gabino Ezeiza told a journalist from the nineteen hundred. His most intimate secrets were entrusted to his loyal guitar, “This guitar that plays and so much harmony is linked to my life/by a secret union. /Without it I couldn't it/sing is this moment/how to sing with her accent/laments of the heart” The guitar was Gabino Ezeiza's faithful companion but the great love of the payer's life turned out Petronila Peñaloza, granddaughter of the warlord Chacho Peñaloza, whom he marries after being imprisoned for supporting the radical uprising of 1893, and that together they would have a prolific offspring of ten children.  Gabino was a barricade radical in the revolutions of 1890, 1893 and 1905. In 1916 he took his clown in support of the proselytizing campaign that would bring to power the first president of all Argentines, Hipólito Yrigoyen.  

 Heyday and death of Santos Vega Negro 

 The golden era of the payadores coincides with the mythical founding stage of the Argentine theatre from 1890 to 1915.   We talk about the years of heyday of the Gabino Ezeiza generation where the payadors perform in the city, in circuses and theaters, even in the incipient Buenos Aires magazine, simultaneously with the fiestas camperas. Even one of the most outstanding payers, Nemesio Trejo (1862-1916), would be notable author of the nascent Argentine dramaturgy and his first local genre, the sainete.  Gabino was also involved in the nascent phonographic and publishing industry. The payador would record   records with the accompaniment of Manuel Campoamor on piano, renowned composer of the tango “La Cara de la Luna”, and would compile his verses in the brochure “Cantos a la Patria” Some of his lost plays were performed in the picadores monteados precariously in the hollows -squares - porteños.  

 Another example of the modernity of Ezeiza's mentality results in the fact that women clowadas have been registered professionally since 1896, when Gabino Ezeiza presents his disciple Aida Reina in the circus of the Petray brothers,  says Beatriz Seibel in “El Cantar del Payador” (1988). Reina acted twenty years in circus tents, and was the first payadora to arrive in Europe in 1900.

During the late nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century, Gabino Ezeiza successfully faces the new litters of payers born under his talent, on a long list that goes from Pedro Ponce de León to Betinotti. With one of them, Ramón Vieytes, kept his last memorable counterpoint at La Pelada de Barracas café on Patricios Street. Vieytes was a disciple of Federico Curlando, a famous payer from Barracas, with whom they say he held a fierce clown for three days in a row.  He ran 1909 and on an axe and chalk between a young payer and the master, Vieytes called him a saucto payer, who was only interested in money. Gabino replied that he never sought fame and that now “I sing to eat/although applause flatters me/but my puppy's bread/with applause is not paid” 

Of him wrote Francisco Pi y Suñer, who met them in San Nicolas, “He was the troubadour of the pampa. In those times of very scarce population in which Argentina lived the life of the shepherds, it was the wandering and vagabond bard who went with his guitar from ranch to ranch and from pulperia to pulperia, glossing the most notable events, recalling the high deeds of illustrious men, carrying everywhere the palpitations of the national soul.  Son of the village and among the raised people, he identified himself with the countryman, with the people's man and poetically and solemn sang his little things and his joys, his hopes and his longings ”, closed Gabino, who managed his own circus and was burned in Rosario by poli hatred ticos.

Days before his death he had sang in the Oviedo Bar in Mataderos, a privileged scene of great payadors in the shadow of the Liniers Hacienda Market, and in the Teatro La Perla de Avellaneda, although he had to supply himself ill for another of his disciples, Juan Damilano. An intense feverish state held Ezeiza in his home in Floresta, Azul 92.  On October 12, 1916, neglecting the advice of doctors, he prepared to go to Plaza de Mayo to celebrate the triumph of his friend Yrigoyen. Convinced by his relatives he chooses not to leave and dies in the middle of the afternoon. From him Yrigoyen said “El Negro served” Gardel and José Razzano would record in tribute to the following year “Heroic Paysandú”,  a final greeting to an unfailing friend of the Café de los Angelitos bar in Balvanera.

The huge Gabino does not currently count on a recognition in his beloved Buenos Aires. A bust of his was stolen years ago in Mataderos (idem in Paysandú, Uruguay) and the historic site in Floresta, a bakery with a space musealized especially by the Hernández Museum and Comuna 9 in 2016, covered, and without the bronze plaque on the street installed by the municipality in the 1980s. Better luck runs a monument in San Clemente del Tuyú, guarded by a grandson Claudio, and the molds of the stolen busts, at the Centro Tradicionalista El Lazo de San Isidro.  Don Atahualpa would sing to him: “Cantor who sings to the pobres/no dead is to shut up. /Well, go to stop/the song of that Christian, /must not miss the country/make it resurrect” It is in the porteños resurrect the memory of his Martín Fierro.  

Sources: Di Santo, V. Gabino Ezeiza. Forerunner of the rioplatense payadoril art . Buenos Aires: Author's Editions. 2010; Chiappe, L.  El Barrio de los Patricios Park . Buenos Aires: The Notebooks of Buenos Aires XLII. 1971; 

Publication Date: 19/02/2021

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payador The famous clown that gave rise to the day of the payador
payador-gaucho The clown and the payadors



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