Merceditas – Love, Christmas, and the tragic beauty of tango…..

“Merceditas” is an interesting recording: it’s a tango that wasn’t originally a tango, written by a man whose love wouldn’t die, recorded by an orchestra whose love for it’s founder never died, and inspired by a true story of unrequited love that is so epic that it recalls Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera”.

The song “Merceditas” was originally an Argentine folkloric song, a “chamame” to be exact, written and recorded by Ramon Sixto Rios in the 1940s. The person “Merceditas” was Mercedes Strickler Khalov (12/21/1916 – 08/07/2001), a self-reliant and strong woman, known for wearing leopard print trousers, boots, and a leather jacket and riding around on a motorcycle. She ran the family farm in Humboldt, Santa Fe, along with her mother and sisters since her father had passed away when she was young. The author had a romance with her but she refused his marriage proposal and broke his heart. It was this heartbreak that inspired the song.  Rios eventually married, but was widowed soon after and had no children, while Merceditas never married. Several decades passed before Rios and Mercedes, both elderly, met once more. Still in love, he proposed marriage and again she refused.  Despite her refusal, they remained in close contact until his death on Christmas Day 1995. His last act, his final Christmas present, was to bequeath to her the rights to the song.

Merceditas lived to be 84 years old. It was said that she believed God had punished her for having refused true love.

The recording
In 1951, the renowned tango orchestra leader and pianist, Osmar Maderna, who was regarded as the “Chopin of Tango”, died in an airplane crash. His orchestra, “La Orchesta Tipica Osmar Maderna” was renamed the “Orchesta SIMBOLO Osmar Maderna” in his honor and continued under the direction of his dear friend Aquiles Roggero. It was this orchestra that recorded Merceditas in 1958. 

The Performance
I discovered this tango while I was in Budapest in October 2015; sharing wine, stories and laughs with Alexandra, Mik, and Julia from Kiev. “DJ Kotelnitskaya” always seems to appear at the right time in order to inspire me with her dance and her musical choices. She played Merceditas for me for the first time in their apartment in Budapest. Later, this song was played during the marathon.  It was through the mix of the beautiful embraces I experienced and the heartbreak I myself was going through, that made me fall in love with this tango. Upon returning home, Marika asked which songs I wanted to dance to in our upcoming performance. It was to take place at Le Rialto, the historic theatre in Montreal built in the 1920s and inspired by the Neo Baroque architecture of the Paris Opera House. I suggested Merceditas, but since every performance we do is completely improvised, I said that we should do it ONLY if the energy from the audience and between us was good; that we should dance it….maybe….as an encore. This is what happened:

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