There is a close cultural exchange between the city of Medellin, Colombia and Argentina, which centers around the Latin dance form of tango. While many have compared Medellin to the European ambience of Buenos Aries, the connection is based upon more than superficial appearances. This association dates back to 1935, when one of the great Argentinean tango dancers, Carlos Gardel, died tragically in a plane crash in Medellin. A monument to this tango artist now graces the Medellin airport as a permanent reminder of the cultural ties based in this primarily Argentinean dance form.
The city of Medellin is known for its intellectual and artistic culture, and residents developed an affinity over the years for the music and dance of tango, which led to a number of tango songs being produced in the city. This connection grew as residents embraced tango in the local cafes and dance halls, as well as surging interest in Argentinean films. Many films stars from Argentina would come to visit Medellin, and even soccer players found themselves recruited to the local football clubs of this popular Latin American sport.
Recently a memorial art statue was erected to commemorate the close ties between Medellin and Argentina, and there is even a web presence at tangomedellin.co that illustrate the many venues for this cultural dance in the city. For visitors that want to experience this dance form there is Homero Manzi, a bar and restaurant that hosts lessons, workshops and conferences in a club setting, as well as the popular Patio del Tango. There are also two tango museums in Medellin, including Casa Gardeliana, which has collections of photos and music as well as offering tango events. For five days every June, Medellin hosts an international tango festival which attracts tango artists and afficianados to celebrate this beloved dance form.
One of the more interesting and subtle aspects of this cross-border relationship is in the way Spanish is spoken in Medellin. Paisas as the residents are known speak a very smooth and easy to understand dialect, and in some respects have adopted Argentinean words or pronunciation. For example, the “ll” is typically pronounced in Spanish with a ‘y’ sound like the word ‘yes’. However, in Medellin, residents pronounce the sound with a soft ‘j’ sound such as in the word ‘jeans’. Thus, the city itself is often heard pronounced ‘med-i-jeean’. If you learn to speak Spanish in Medellin, residents of other cities in Colombia will recognize your accent immediately as paisa.
For visitors to Colombia that want to experience a different type of cultural blend, Medellin offers something unique and interesting in the relationship to its southern Latin American neighbor. If you want to experience a taste of Argentina, Medellin can offer you an evening of tango that you wont forget.