One visit and a hundred years without forgetting.
There are no photos, audios, recordings or tangible documents to prove it, but as any great myth would have it, Gardel´s visit to Chile is uphold by all his passionate fans who are willing to feel him a bit closer to them.
This is the case of the elder people in this trans-Andean country. Because of this, and the story being told on for generations, the memory of Gardel singing in Santiago, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, over 100 years ago, is still present as an irrefutable truth on the streets of Chile.
It has been over a century since Carlos Gardel travelled through the Andes to visit Chile for the first and last time. It was 1917 when a young 27-year-old Carlos, who was not yet recognized by his last name, arrived to the trans-Andean country with guitar player José Razzano (who would later become his manager).
According to historians and tango fans, the young Gardel begun his trip to Chile on an old car in the city of Mendoza, Argentina and arrived at the old train station Mopocho, located Santiago de Chile.
Around that year Gardel, who was not yet the figure that he became, performed onstage singing folklore songs as his presentation letter.
But, what about tango?
Precisely that year, 1917, Carlos Gardel made his first approach to tango. He surrounded himself with a milonga environment and he even dared to write his first tango “Mi noche triste” (my sad night). Therefore, we conclude that the version performed in Chile at that time was more folkloric than tango
He stayed in Chile for six weeks and the only official performances, according to orators, were delivered in the Teatro Colón de Valparaíso, Teatro Olimpo de Viña del Mar and in the Teatro Royal de Santiago.
A hundred and two years have gone by since that visit. And it had to be an exalted one for us to keep talking and writing about it. This was not the great Hollywood Gardel, him who made people fall in love with him; he was not the renowned singer of “Por una cabeza” nor was him the man considered a historic heritage by the Unesco.
But according to what can be heard nowadays in Chile, his bright and his success were such, that you can still hear workers say “Gardel sang!” every time they receive their paycheck. This last phrase refers to the economic abundance of the ticket offices of the places the Criollo Thrush performed.
That was the footprint that this humble singer who had talent on his throat and a smile on his complexion and that earned him the applause and joy from the crowds. That was Carlos in Chile, the one they will later call: Carlos Gardel.