Puente Alsina is a famous bridge in Buenos Aires, one so famous it has a tango named for it. But both words and music of that tango were written in 1926 by Benjamín Tagle Lara whereas the current neo-colonial structure that links the suburbs of Nueva Pompeya to Valentin Alsina was opened in 1938. In fact the words refer to the second of the bridges, a temporary iron structure that was in use from 1910 to 1938.
The image shows it in 1928, only two years after the song was written. It is clearly a working bridge carrying trade as well as traffic and located in a working district, and the lyrics should be interpreted in that light.
The bridge has always been the Puente Alsina in popular parlance, and references to it—such as in Buenos Noches, Buenes Aires ( ? written in 1958) and the 1947 version of the lyrics to El Choclo—have been in that name. The official name has been a different matter. I have mentioned the tensions between Buenos Aires and the provinces in previous posts, and the Batella de Puente Alsina (Battle of Alsina Bridge) in 1880 between Buenos Aires and its own province is one of the few official references to the bridge under that name. The series of bridges have variously been officially named Valentin Alsina, Jose Felix Uriburu, and now Ezequiel Demonty, although 2002 to 2015 the current bridge was renamed to align with popular parlance as Puente Alsina.
The tango Puente Alsina has been recorded dozens of times – and the one played on 23 October, from Otros Aires is, as the name says, just ‘Another Puente Alsina’ although it is a reconstruction of their first version from 2007. Otro Puente Alsina – Reloaded was recorded in 2013 by Otros Aires with Joe Powers playing harmonica by invitation.
The lyrics read in part as follows:
“…Viejo puente, compañero y confidente,
sos la marca, que en la frente,
del progreso te ha dejado
el suburbio rebelado
que a tu paso sucumbió.
Yo no he conocido caricias de madre…
Tuve un solo padre que fuera el rigor
y llevo en mis venas, de sangre maleva,
gritando, una gleba, su crudo rencor.
Porque te lo llevan, mi barrio, mi todo…”
…Old Bridge, comrade and confidant,
the mark, the leading edge,
of progress has left you
the suburb rebelled
your path succumbed.
I have not known a mother’s caresses …
I had only a father that was harsh
and I carry in my veins the blood of thugs,
crying bondage, holding a grudge.
Because they take, my neighborhood, my everything,..
Clearly urban gentrification is not a new phenomenon, and the poor always lost out.
Image reproduced from Wikipedia: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puente_Alsina