Around 1870, modernization arrives in the Argentine countryside, and the gaucho without any fixed occcupation will be considered either a vagrant or an outlaw, which may earn him a prison sentence or military service in the frontier. His woman, the “china” of bucolic sunsets waiting mate in hand by the rustic gate, falls into poverty and has no option but to work as a servant in the landlord´s house – in which she must “serve” in every capacity- or sell her charms for some coins. And thus is prostitution launched in an Argentina which was quite avid for labour of this kind.


The turn of the century finds Argentina as a land of opportunity and it is swarmed by migratory waves fron the impoverished European countries. Some arrived in this wild and unknown land with their families, but others preferred to risk it alone, and their loneliness had to be alleviated somehow. A population in which men otnumbered women fostered new working possibilities and introduced the Golden Age of Prostitution and Ruffianism.

The “white slave traffic”, the“whitest trade”, the “road to Buenos Aires”, are the names of an organized industry which involved vast amounts of money and power, and “imported” European women to equip the brothels. It was a clandestine operation, marginalized by the law, but neverthelesss public due to its inevitable association with the police and the politicians which gave it carte blanche.

It was directed by the notorious Zwi Migdal, a Jewish mutual aid organization which, as early as the 1900’ s, eventually controlled the payed sexual life of Argentinians and immigrants. With brothels all over the country but mainly in Buenos Aires and Rosario, they arranged the shipping of women from Poland and other European nations; women who had been deceived into coming to an unknown country, alone and ignorant of the language, and who were auctioned to the owner of a chain of whorehouses.



Although Buenos Aires had not authorized the activity, “merchandise” was abundant and public., as Roger Salardenne observed in 1930, during his world tour of fleshpots :
“...The capital of Argentina has been invaded by wanton women from all the countries of the world. They do not ply their trade in the streets. They search for their clients preferably in caffés, ´dancings´, cabarets, playhouses and theatres. We may say without incurring in error that every unaccompanied woman in the street, after nine o´clock in the evening, is a prostitute.”

On the other hand, in Rosario prostitution was not only permitted, but also perfectly regulated since 1900. In the brothels, the women kept the tally of customers with tokens or “chapas”, as in the Petit Trianon in the infamous Pichincha street, so that they did not handle money, which guaranteed their safety in the case of robbery, and administrative control. The government looked after hygiene and health conditions, compelling prostitutes to keep a “sanitary card”, where the medical doctor who checked them on a periodical basis, set down, together with a sealed fiscal stamp, the patient´s condition: HEALTHY, SICK, MENSTRUATING, EMPTIED.



The intensity of the erotic life was showcased not only in the brothels, but also in the “porteña” ( of Buenos Aires) expression par excelence; the Tango.
The popularity of that music, together with the sensuality of the dance, which relegated it to marginal circles, produced tangos with picaresque or saucy titles, as “69”, “Dos al Hilo”, “Metele Bomba al Primus”, “Tocame la Carolina”, “Afeitate el 7 que el 8 es Fiesta”, “Empujá que se va a Abrir”, and many other subtleties of the same kind, impossible to translate to English with same sense.

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