From Deep Within: Pope Francis’ Love for Tango

My last piece for the National Catholic Register focused on Cuban jazz and in particular the Buena Vista Social Club, celebrating Pope Francis’s visit. How could I not follow up on that with the Latin American musical style beloved by Francis himself.

Austen Ivereigh’s recent, insightful biography of Francis (Jorge Borgoglio), The Great Reformer, details his love for tango on pages 34 and 35.

“Anna Colonna, a friend in his parish circle, remembers him dressed in a suit, gallantly asking girls to take a turn with him. . . .

“Colonna, who describes Jorge when she knew him as ‘very considerate, very sociable,’ says his great love musically was tango. ‘Jorge was a great tango dancer,’ she said. ‘He liked tangos a lot.’

“Tango, Bergoglio said in 2010, ‘comes from deep within me.”

“The emblematic sound of Buenos Aires was born as accordion music accompanying ritualized fights between tough men in the turn-of-the-century tenements, especially down in the port area of La Boca. But over time it became respectable, morphing in the 1920s into music for couples to dance to—flirtatious, competitive, haughty. Then words were added: in the 1940s and 1940s, when the silky voice and astonishingly handsome Carlos Gardel crooned ‘El Día Que Me Quieras’ (‘The Day that You Will Love Me’) on the big screen, tango became a craze, both in Argentina and abroad.”

Here is a recording of that groundbreaking piece:

Ivereigh says Francis particularly liked Juan D’Arienzo’s orchestral pieces: Here is an example:

In the 2010 book, El Jesuita, Cardinal Borgoglio quoted a line from Enrique Santos Discépolo’s “Cambalache,” in order “to deplore contemporary relativism”: “what the heck, everything’s the same, and there in hell we’ll all see each other anyway” (Ivereigh, 35). Here is a recording of the song, with vocalist Julio Sosa:

Ivereigh also mentions that Pope Francis got to know the artist Azucena Maizani and “when he gave her the last rites in 1970, he met around her deathbed the great tango artist Hugo del Carril.” Here is an example of her singing:

Two other artists mentioned are Ada Falcón and Ástor Piazzolla. Here are examples of their music: