One of the great Argentine icons, alongside footballer Diego Maradona and the former first lady, Eva Peron, is the tango singer, Carlos Gardel.
Pictures of him with his slicked-backed hair and perfectly tailored suits adorn many Argentine bars and restaurants and you will often hear his songs played by Buenos Aires taxi drivers on the all-tango radio stations.
He was an early playboy, an international superstar who came to a tragic and premature end in a plane crash in Colombia in 1935. Gardel is to Argentina what Frank Sinatra is to the United States or Edith Piaf is to France.
So while driving through northern Uruguay recently, I had to take a second look when I saw a sign pointing to Carlos Gardel’s birthplace and museum.
How cheeky can you get? It is like Canadians saying that Sinatra was not really born in Hoboken, New Jersey, but in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Or the British claiming that Edith Piaf really hailed from Basingstoke in southern England.
Gardel is as Argentine as a big lump of juicy steak being barbequed by gauchos out on the pampas. But not according to the Uruguayans, and they have the evidence to prove it – or so they say.
[T]his dispute goes to the heart of Argentine and Uruguayan national identity.Tango is not just a style of music and dance – it is the beat to
which both nations evolved from their immigrant roots. It matters.