“Qué vachaché” Tita Merello

¡Qué vachaché!

Música: Enrique Santos Discépolo
Letra: Enrique Santos Discépolo

What are you going to do! Qué vachaché is a lunfardo version of the phrase, “Qué vas a hacer?” In this tango, the protagonist is an irate woman who delivers an acerbic sermon to an ex-lover, an outspoken penniless political idealist and activist. She shouts, wanting to throw him out of her life, “Piantá de aquí, no vuelvas en tu vida.” He is an outspoken political idealist whom she calls naive (engrupido) because he cannot fulfill his obligations as a man and provide for them. She argues that true love drowns in the soup, that hunger is king and money is God: “El verdadero amor se ahogò en la sopa:/ la Panza es Reina y el dinero Dios.” When people are hungry and desperate, money and food are more important than virtues, ideologies, and the pursuit of Truth. Within the tango, the female protagonist sees with clarity how the world works, whereas the male, her pareja, acts on how the world should be. Qué vachaché was written in 1926, during the first wave of feminism in Buenos Aires. Although the woman in this tango is outspoken and wise, she still adheres to traditional gender roles of the time and expects her lover to provide food and money for the household. 

When lyricist Enríque Santos Discépolo first wrote “Qué vachaché!, audiences did not pay much attention to his compositions until a beloved singer, Azucena Maizani, in 1928 performed another one of his songs, “Esta noche me emborracho.” Another beloved performer, Tita Merello, sang “Que vachaché” (in the video above), which contributed to its success and the success of other Discépolo songs. Discépolo continued to gain notoriety with ironic and moralistic songs like “Cambalache” and “Yira Yira,” which functioned as an astute critique of the global political stage of that era.    

In 1926, Discépolo wrote about a world full of misery and hunger during the post World War I era. In the early 20th century, Argentina had experienced an economic boom due to the agricultural industry throughout the country. However, due to the war in Europe, flow of international goods, capital, and labor into Argentina declined. The final words of the tango captures Discépolo’s sentiments about the global political stage:

¿Qué vachaché? ¡Hoy ya murió el criterio!
Vale Jesús lo mismo que el ladrón...

For Discépolo, someone like Jesus or other spiritual moralists are on the same social rung of a much larger ladder that separates the poor from the privileged. Money is God. And to live a purposeful life, we must serve the dollar and offer penance to the debt collector. Nearly 100 years have passed since these prescient words were written. They continue to be relevant in the world that we live in today, where we dance against the clock, eyes shut, not knowing what to do.


I want to thank my Spanish teacher and good friend Juan José Ortega for introducing this tango into our weekly lessons. He provided a detailed analysis of the tango in Spanish, which I have translated to English for the purpose of this blog. You can read the tango in Spanish down below. If you are interested in learning Argentine Spanish and more about the history of tango, its lyrics, and cultural roots, contact Juan José on his Facebook page, Español con JJ.

Qué vachaché

Piantá de aquí, no vuelvas en tu vida.
Ya me tenés bien requeteamurada.
No puedo más pasarla sin comida
ni oírte así, decir tanta pavada.
¿No te das cuenta que sos un engrupido?
¿Te creés que al mundo lo vas a arreglar vos?
¡Si aquí, ni Dios rescata lo perdido!
¿Qué querés vos? ¡Hacé el favor!

Lo que hace falta es empacar mucha moneda,
vender el alma, rifar el corazón,
tirar la poca decencia que te queda...
Plata, plata, plata y plata otra vez...
Así es posible que morfés todos los días,
tengas amigos, casa, nombre...y lo que quieras vos.
El verdadero amor se ahogó en la sopa:
la panza es reina y el dinero Dios.

¿Pero no ves, gilito embanderado,
que la razón la tiene el de más guita?
¿Que la honradez la venden al contado
y a la moral la dan por moneditas?
¿Que no hay ninguna verdad que se resista
frente a dos pesos moneda nacional?
Vos resultás, -haciendo el moralista-,
un disfrazao...sin carnaval...

¡Tirate al río! ¡No embromés con tu conciencia!
Sos un secante que no hace reír.
Dame puchero, guardá la decencia...
¡Plata, plata y plata! ¡Yo quiero vivir!
¿Qué culpa tengo si has piyao la vida en serio?
Pasás de otario, morfás aire y no tenés colchón...
¿Qué vachaché? ¡Hoy ya murió el criterio!
Vale Jesús lo mismo que el ladrón...

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