A Case Study of Murga Porteña #3: Political Solidarity

During my last few weeks in Buenos Aires, I interacted with the murga troupe Cachengue y Sudor in various ways. I observed a rehearsal in Plaza 24 de Septiembre in Capital Federal (where the troupe has been rehearsing for almost 10 years), participated in several social gatherings at the homes of various murgueros, attended a party to raise funds for Cachengue y Sudor, sat in on a meeting of the Movimiento de Murgas Independientes (Movement of Independent Murgas), met with an Argentinian scholar who has studied murgas in Buenos Aires, and concluded my series of face-to-face interviews with murgueros in Cachengue y Sudor.

In addition, I witnessed a performance by Cachengue y Sudor in Villa Lugano, a neighborhood on the periphery of Capital Federal. On this day, July 9th (which happens to be Argentina’s Independence Day), two mothers in the neighborhood organized an outdoor commemoration on a street block to honor the memory and appeal for justice on behalf of their sons, Jonathan Lezcano y Ezequiel Blanco. One year ago, in July 2009, the two youths from Villa Lugano were killed by police in a case of ‘gatillo fácil’ (which could be translated to ‘trigger happy’ and refers to police violence). The charges against the accused officers were dismissed by a judge based on the argument that the police were acting in “legitimate defense” as the “delinquent” youth allegedly attempted to rob a car while armed. Furthermore, for two months (until September 2009) the youths were ‘desaparecidos en democracia’ (‘disappeared in democracy’). The police did not inform the families about the deaths of the two youths; meanwhile Jonathan had been buried in Chacarita cemetary without identification, and Ezequiel was in a morgue. The families have appealed the ruling of the judge and are currently pursuing legal action.

While on the way to Villa Lugano, two murgueros who were travelling with me explained to me that Villa Lugano is a poor neighborhood, and that they were aware of class differences between themselves, middle-class porteños, and the residents of Villa Lugano. One of the murgueros mentioned to me how she values how she has the opportunity to go to neighborhoods with the murga that she might not otherwise travel to. After a heavy metal band finished performing at the street celebration, Cachengue y Sudor presented a modified version of their Carnival 2010 program. First the murga troupe demonstrated its ‘desfile’ (opening march) [see 1st clip], followed by a ‘glosa de presentación’ (introductory/opening poem) and a ‘canción de critica’ (song of critique), then another glosa followed by ‘la matanza’ (where murgueros form a circle and take turns dancing in the center), ending with a brief thank-you for the invitation to perform and lend support to the neighborhood, followed by the ‘retirada’ (closing song) [see 2nd clip]. Cachengue y Sudor seemed to be successful at gathering onlookers into a circle around the troupe, generating a rapport with the public, and inspiring applause and even participation (dancing with the troupe).

The performance by Cachengue y Sudor was followed by an African drumming/dancing group and the day culminated in a set of speeches by the mothers of the youths, as well as a father of a desaparecido from the military dictatorship, who all demanded justice from the authorities and expressed gratitude for everyone’s presence.

Posted by Mariana Pardes — MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU

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