Introduction - in the murga y carnaval

In the Murga y Carnaval intends to cover the Argentine football world, with an emphasis on Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, from the perspective of a Canadian ‘hincha’ in training. Hincha (pronounced een-cha) is the Argentine word for soccer/football ‘supporter’ or ‘fanatic’ and is derived from the verb hinchar, which translates literally to mean “to swell” or “to fill up”. The collective of the hinchas is known as an hinchada (een-cha-da).

The title of this blog is taken from a song sung by the hinchada of San Lorenzo:

Vengo del barrio de Boedo I come from the neighbourhood of Boedo

Barrio de murga y carnaval Neighbourhood of murga and carnaval

Te juro que en los malos momentos I swear to you in the bad times

Siempre te voy a acompañar I will always be with you

dale dale matador

dale dale matador

dale dale dale dale matador

The hinchada of San Lorenzo singing 20 Nov 2011

Matador being one of the pseudonyms of San Lorenzo, named for the 1968 Torneo Metropolitano winning team, which won the without losing a game, a first in Argentina’s professional era, and earning the name Los Matadores, “the killers” (the poetics don’t always translate).

Murgas are the typical music and dance collective that perform during the carnival celebrations in the cities of the River Plate. Murgas originated in the working-class ‘barrios’ of Montevideo and Buenos Aires as a cultural syncretism of European carnival and various forms of African percussive music. African populations brought to the Americas as slaves represented a significant portion of the Argentine population during the 18th and 19th century. Many Afro-Argentines settled in the neighbourhoods of Monseratt and San Telmo and interacted with working-class Argentines; by the end of the 19th century, however, the Afro-Argentine population had significantly declined (large number of blacks died in the armies of Argentina, faced racism and lower standards of living, which led to a high mortality during the yellow fever epidemics). Murgas, epitomized by the booming rhythms of the “bombos” – large base drums, continued to be important social organizations in working class neighbourhoods throughout Buenos Aires, particularly in the south of the city, in part because of their role as social critics.

During the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 80s, the custom of using murgas as social organizations and the songs sung by murgas as a form of social critique from the lower classes led to the ban of murgas and carnaval throughout Argentina. As a result, murga, along with candombé groups, have been more recently associated to carnival across the river in Montevideo. Murgas are, however, experiencing resurgence in the barrios of Buenos Aires.

Protest, cultural inversion, and contestation are constant themes of carnivals around the world; the murga is not an exception. Following in this tradition, I wish to use this blog to highlight the cultural, social, economic, and political complexities as they flow through and out of Argentine football. Being an hincha in Argentina, and arguably everywhere in the world, is not an experience ambivalent to the struggles of power, inequality, justice, and dignity. Fandom is shaped by and speaks to the broad social context and I bring my own critical view on many issues into the discussions.

The music of the murga has long been associated with the sound of the cancha – the field and stadium. The constant rhythmic boom of the banda – the musicians of the hinchada –underscores most canciones – songs – of an Argentine hinchada. Wherever a match is being played in Argentina, the historical influence of the murga will be heard.

I am an anthropology PhD candidate at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I am currently in the middle of my thesis research into the culture of Argentine hinchas. Most of my football time is with la gente of San Lorenzo.

Periodically this blog will contain articles written in my broken castellano.

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