Tango and International Law

Tango is part of the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2009.

It does not only embrace the dance -which is the most known feature of this marvellous tradition-, but it also includes musicians, composers, interprets, songwriters, teachers of the art and the national living treasures. Just to mention some of my favourite ones:  Manzi, Cadícamo, Discépolo, Trolio, Piazzola, Rivero, Gardel, Goyeneche and Sosa.

Tango was developed by the urban lower classes in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the Rio de la Plata basin. As a dance, it has influences from the descendants of the African slaves and the Native American and European culture in the figure of the ‘criollos’. Their wide range of customs, beliefs and rituals merged and transformed into a distinctive cultural identity, which remains today as a national brand for Argentina and Uruguay.

However, it was not until the 20th century that tango was brought to Europe: the first tango craze took place in Paris, followed by London, Berlin and other capitals around the continent. Certainly, the rhythm played by the ‘bandoneonistas’ remind us the streets of Montmartre; while the nostalgic and dramatic -though greatly romantic- lyrics make us think about the Italian roots of their characters. All in all, the music, dance and pure poetry of tango both embodies and encourages diversity and cultural dialogue, which characterizes the Argentian and Uruguayan society nowadays.

But… what does it mean that Tango forms part of the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity?

First, that it must be safeguarded at the international level. All those States which have ratified the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage have a duty to safeguard, ensure respect and raise awareness of its importance; providing for international cooperation and assistance to this end (Article 1).

Second, at the national level, Argentina and Uruguay are compelled to take the necessary measures to ensure that tango still alive through the adoption of general policies aimed at promoting it in their societies; fostering artistic studies and the creation of institutions for training in the management and transmission of tango, ensuring forums and spaces intended for its performance; ensuring access to tango while respecting customary practices governing it; provide educational, awareness-raising and information programmes particularly to young people; and ensure the widest possible participation of communities, groups and individuals that enrich, maintain and transmit the tango to the new generations (Part III).

As far as I could have seen when I was in Argentina, tango is not only promoted -which can be related to economic interests, given the rising amount of tourists that visit “Caminito” every year- but it is also highly internalized in the peoples: everyone listened to it at home while drinking mate with their relatives on Sundays.

Personally, I absolutely love it and I am glad to have discovered today that it is part of the international law: two passions in one.

As a gift, the masterpiece of ‘Adios Nonino’, one of my favourite tangos: