Tango Vesre, which in English translates as Inverted Tango, is a linguistic reference that connects to the very core of tango's music and history.  The title resulted from my investigation into the development of Argentinean lunfardo, a slang that originated among the lower social classes in Buenos Aires during the second half of the nineteenth century. Lunfardo also has roots in the criminal realm, as much of it developed in the prisons, conventillos (tenements) and streets of Buenos Aires.  The indigenous natives, creoles -- referring to the people of Spanish descent who where born in Argentina-- and the European immigrants that lived in Buenos Aires experienced a mixture of cultures and languages. The combination of Spanish, Italian, and indigenous languages gave origin to unique words that eventually produced the lunfardo lexicon.  Initially, the word lunfardo meant "thief," though after some time it became the name of the slang spoken by the people in the outlying areas of the city.

Lunfardo is closely tied with tango culture since many of its songs are written using this slang. As a result of this usage, lunfardo evolved within Argentine culture to become accepted among all social classes in Buenos Aires.  Lunfardo scholars have made a connection between lunfardo and criminal activity, but few have correlated the slang with homosexuality. The Argentine scholar, Magali Saikin, who focused on gender in tango in her book Tango y Género (2004), has linked lunfardo with criminality and homosexuality. Saikin referenced a study published in Argentina by psychiatrist Francisco de Veyga that reveals correspondences between criminals that spoke lunfardo and the "sexually inverted.” At the turn of the twentieth century, Argentineans commonly used the term “sexual inverts” to refer to homosexuals, transgendered and cross-dressers.  Homosexuals at the turn of the nineteenth century were considered criminals and often categorized as suffering from a form of degeneration.  Since Argentine society considered homosexuality an abomination, it was thought to contribute to the subversion of the accepted gender roles in Argentine society.  Consequently, lunfardo was spoken among men -- regardless of their sexual orientation -- who were involved in “criminal” activity.  Thus, homosexuals in the outlying sectors of Buenos Aires spoke lunfardo.

One of the main features in lunfardo is the use of vesre, a linguistic practice in which the syllables of common words are inverted to become slang.  The word vesre itself is the result of the inversion of the word revés, meaning "inversion" or "backwards." Although the syllables in the words are inverted, the meaning of it remains the same.  Examples of lunfardo vesre include café feca (coffee), pantalones lompa (a shortened form of the word for pants), tango gotán, and hotel telo.

My thesis title, while referencing music and history, is also a strong metaphor illustrating how I re-imagine and reexamine the traditional male/female structure in tango from a queer standpoint.  Tango Vesre then becomes the transposal of gender roles in the tango, or a reversal of the traditional roles of leader and follower in the dance, as well as the juxtaposed viewing of homosexuality as both atrocity and accepted practice.

Castro, Donald S. The Argentine Tango as Social History 1880-1955. Lewiston: The

Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.

Gobello, José. Aproximación al Lunfardo. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Criterio, 1953..

Rodriguez, Julia. Civilizing Argentina: Science, Medicine and the Modern State. Chapel

Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Teruggi, Mario. Panorama del lunfardo: Génesis y esencia de las hablas coloquiales

urbanas. Buenos Aires: Editoriales Sudamericana, 1978.