Long After Midnight at the Niņo Bien: A Yanqui's Missteps in Argentina
, 2008 - Argentina
- 247 pages
In 1999, twenty-two-year-old Brian Winter packed his bags and headed for Buenos Aires. He learnt the language, got to know the people and suffered with them as the peso bottomed out. And he became infected by an Argentine obsession - the tango. Since its birth in the city's streets and brothels in the 1880's, tango has remained the heartbeat of Argentine life, a barometer of its rising and falling fortunes. Flourishing in the grand milongas - dance halls - of Buenos Aires' early-twentieth-century belle epoque, its supremacy was later challenged by the emergence of rock'n'roll. But tango survived to enjoy a renaissance in Argentina and across the world. Long After Midnight at the Ni o Bien explores Argentina through its obsession with the dance, telling of Winter's adventures in the sexy, over-caffeinated late-night world of Buenos Aires' tango halls. We meet local characters like El Tigre, a merchant marine turned tango professor and B-movie star, who has danced everywhere from Algeria to Japan; El Tano, a spectacularly foul-mouthed insurance salesman who scraped by for thirty years in Milwaukee giving tango lessons; and Hugo, a wiry mechanic who sometimes goes a whole week without sleep but manages (thanks to ten espressos a night) to cultivate a baker's dozen of stunning groupies. The tango at its heart is escapism, pure and simple - 'the vertical expression of a horizontal desire', and perhaps this explains why the milongas are so often packed to capacity at 4am on a Monday night. Part travel narrative, part memoir and part cultural history of a remarkable and troubled country and the dance that epitomizes it, Long After Midnight at the Ni o Bien provides a unique insight into the Argentinian soul.