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Is Tango At Risk? Milongas Struggle To Pay Utilities And Ask For Subsidies

By | [email protected] | June 22, 2016 12:19pm

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Milongas, or tango dance halls, have joined the long list of organizations asking for government subsidies to make ends meet in light of increased utility bills.

As reported by press yesterday, Julio Bassan, the president of the Association of Milonga Organizers (AOM), wrote an impassioned letter to Clarin last Friday avowing that, “Due to the unchecked rise in the cost of electricity, water and gas, milongas risk disappearing, closing their doors forever and taking tango with them.”

He goes on to cite a number of laws and regulations, including Buenos Aires City Law 130, as official legislation that ought to protect milongas. Law 130 passed in 1998 effectively requires the City Government to “guarantee [tango’s] preservation, recuperation and diffusion” and uphold it as “cultual heritage.”

“Tango is one of three reasons why foreigners come visit our City and it’s the reason why the City Government each year organizes world tango competitions,” he writes.

Effectively, the number of people who’ve signed up to dance in milongas has dropped by as much as 35 or 55 percent, according to figures provided by Clarin. Ana Bocutti explained to the outlet how she, a milonga organizer, noticed that regulars had started to complain about how expensive a night out has gotten — including taxis, drinks and milonga entry fees — and that they were forced to cut back on their expenses by first slashing leisure activities, such as as dancing.

It’s not just milonga attendees having to rethink their budgets: milongas themselves face the dilemma of having to increase their entry fees (and scaring away regulars) or putting their businesses at risk.

Photo via blog.startspanish.com

Photo via blog.startspanish.com

As Bassan explained, “In order to adjust the value of the entry fees to the increased utility bills, we would have to triple or quadruple the price, and it is impossible to expect someone to pay AR$ 300 or more to attend a milonga. Those who would  be able to pay would be foreigners, making milongas an elitist thing. This is not what the Association nor the milongas want.”

The AOM represents milonga organizers in the City of Buenos Aires, the Buenos Aires Province, the rest of the country and even some outside of the country. It has about 100 members who want to keep their traditions alive. Outside of Argentina’s annual Tango World Championship, these groups don’t receive any government funding according to Bassan.

President Mauricio Macri’s austerity measures have hit Argentines hard these past few months, as prices for everything from transportation to food items and utilities have jumped far higher than most salaries. Community centers and neighborhood clubs throughout the country have clamored for government subsidies to be able to keep their doors open while utility bills remain high. Sports Minister Carlos MacAllister promised to provide centers the subsidies back in May, referring to Law 27.098 on the Promotion of Neighborhood and Town Community Centers, which, even though it was passed in December 2014, had still not been implemented. President Mauricio Macri still had to formally decree its enactment.