Let the Magic Begin Again

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It is Carnaval and out from the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires stream broken-down buses carrying murga troupes to outdoor stages around the city. The murgueros criss-cross the city during the night, spilling out of their buses to sing the songs of their neighborhood before crowding back into their sweaty transport for the next destination. Buenos Aires only looks like one big city: it is better understood as a collection of neighborhoods, each with its lore and traditions and pride. They have their football teams and murga troupes and local heroes. The rougher the neighborhood, the fiercer the pride.

Like everything in Buenos Aires, nostalgia runs deep. You can’t live long here without being told about the great Carnaval celebrations that used to take place on the streets and in the social clubs, in the vast milongas where hundreds of people danced tango under strands of hanging bulbs and the water fights that made children giddy. These traditions were lost over the years, partly through political turmoil but also through plain old neglect.

When I arrived in Buenos Aires 25 years ago, tango was a dying art sustained by octogenarians. Ditto murga. Today they are thriving again.

It is a good time to be alive. And to celebrate.


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