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Cafetin de Buenos Aires   Leave a comment

Small tavern of Buenos Aires (1948)
LYRICS by: Enrique Santos Discepolo
MUSIC by: Mariano Mores
TRANSLATION by: Ramon Peñalva
Last updated on: 12/25/11
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A “cafetín” was a small tavern, in the first half of this century. It was the place where the younger and older generations met and developed a tight relationship. Youngsters could learn all those lessons not taught at home and a kind of dismal philosophy about life. All this changed during and after the ’60’s and those places slowly disappeared from the urban scene. First stanza: A “cafetín” was a males only place so it was off limits to women and children. The author remembers when as a child he thought it never would come the time when he could get in. It mentions a melancholic sentiment equating the cold of the windowpane with his actual feelings and recognize the “cafetín” as the teacher of several things, good and bad, that helped him to grow up. Second stanza: Now there is a claim of not forgetting this place that was so much alike his mother, a perpetual harbor from all pains and dangers of the world. Then a description of the strange mix of customers and what he learned from them. Third stanza: Finally he remembers the bunch of buddies he found between those walls and recalls several of them, falling again in a melancholic mood bringing to memory some sad moments in life and his final sense of failure.
De chiquilín te miraba de afuera (1)
como a esas cosas que nunca se alcanzan,
la ñata contra el vidrio, (2)
en un azul de frío
que sólo fue después viviendo
igual que el mío.
Como una escuela de todas las cosas,
ya de muchacho me diste entre asombro
el cigarrillo…
la fe de mis sueños
y una esperanza de amor.

¿Cómo olvidarte en esta queja,
cafetín de Buenos Aires?
Si sos lo único en la vida
que se pareció a mi vieja. (3)
En tu mezcla milagrosa
de sabihondos y suicidas
yo aprendí filosofía… dados… timba (4)
y la poesía cruel
de no pensar más en mi…

Me diste en oro un puñado de amigos,
que son los mismos que alientan mis horas;
José el de la quimera,
Marcial que aún cree y espera
y el flaco Abel… que se nos fue,
pero aún me guía.
Sobre tus mesas que nunca preguntan
Lloré una tarde el primer desengaño.
Nací a las penas,
bebí mis años,
y me entregué sin luchar.

In my childhood I stared at you
as those things I would never possess
the nose against your window
in an iced blue feeling
that only later, living,
was the same in my soul.
As a school that teaches all things,
in my youth you gave me in wonder
a good smoke…
a faith in my dreams
and a hope for love.

How can I forget you in my lament
“cafetín de Buenos Aires”?
If you are the only one in life
who resembled my mother.
In your strange association
of smart guys and self-killers
I learned philosophy… dice… gamble
and the bitter poetry
of not to think of myself.

You gave me in gold a fistful of friends
the same who cheer my life and my hours
José the one with dreams
Marcial who still believes and hopes
and skinny Abel… who’s gone
but still he guides me.
On your tables that never ask questions
I wept some day my first disillusion
I knew of pains,
I drank my years
And I gave up with no fight.

(1) Chiquilín (diminutive) from “Chico” = small boy, kid
(2) Ñata (f) (colloquial) from “Ñato”(m): pug-nosed or flat-nosed = the nose.
(3) Vieja (coll) literal: old woman = mother
(4) Timba (coll) = the action of gambling

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