Five Year Anniversary of El Firulete
The first time I saw El Firulete was mid week at the 1995 Stanford Tango
Week. It appeared on a table in a messy pile of local flyers. It stood
out and caught my eye. Itís black and white design with this astonishing
drawing on itís cover, looked different. I wanted to see what it was. At
first I didnít concentrate on it. I casually flipped through the pages
and threw it in my tote bag.
Copyright (c) 2000, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved
I was new to the world of Argentine Tango, new in fact to the social
dance world in general. I didnít get a lot of things I saw that week. Like
writing your name on a cheap plastic cup at a dance, so that you had to
use the same glass all night. I thought this a rather quaint and typical
California political statement on recycling. I came from the world of event
design where my clients went through five Crystal glasses per person during
the usual three hour cocktail party. Plastic tablecloths, cheap flyers,
bad lighting, minimal decor - well it was all so unexpected for the fancy
lady from New York City. At that time I was still wearing my designer clothes
to dance in, making a fashion statement (since at this time I couldnít
express myself through the dance).
Later on, in my little dorm room on the Stanford campus, I took a
closer look at the little black and white publication. After reading for
a few seconds, I realized a new found friend had produced it, and that
he had written a few articles. I knew he was a native of Argentina, so
I was very impressed by his writing in general, and in particular, his
writing in English. I discovered a lot of good information and pictures.
The only thing I didnít like was that it was too short. So I re-read it
again and again.
Later on I complimented my friend and asked him who helped him with
getting this monthly publication out. Who financed it? Who distributed
it? Who did the graphic design? Who got the advertising? He said that it
was his one man baby, something that he had started a year before. His
reason? The Argentine Tango community had given him so much, and he wanted
to give something back. He got himself a publishing program for his computer.
Armed with a good Spanish/English dictionary, a book on black and white
graphic design and a natural ability to write in two languages, he produced
El Firulete. I promised to subscribe.
As many of you know, the man is Alberto Paz, and that trip to the
1995 Stanford Tango Week changed both our lives, to the extent that we
became partners in life. Shortly after moving to California to be with
Alberto, we embarked on a life, keeping a mutual promise to do things that
mattered to us. We reckoned at our age that we had twenty (or so) more
years of healthy productive life on this earth, and we owed it to ourselves
to live accordingly. Argentine Tango became the centerpiece of this life
Both of us had extensive life experience, including lives as business
people. He an electronics engineer and inventor, and me an artist turned
We abandoned our businesses, as they had become empty exercises creating
little if any joy. As once successful entrepreneurs we knew the formula
for success is based on doing something you like as your ďjob.Ē It was
necessary for us to still make a living, so we joined forces, and our company
Planet Tango, was realized. I was to handle bringing the world of Argentine
Tango into the event design mainstream and vice versa. Another opportunity
came our way by two Argentine teachers asking us to help organize their
classes and workshops when they visited our area. Logically, we thought
we could became agents for teachers, dancers, shows and musicians, while
we developed our own teaching career.
And then there was El Firulete, which I considered Albertoís baby
and territory. A few subscriptions barely paid for the paper, ink and postage,
but then El Firulete was a love child. I never thought to encroach on Albertoís
expertise and turf. All couples know that each individual needs their own
After months of adjusting to our income from Planet Tango being far
from the reality of the usual business world we were both accustomed to
(I once remarked that the money we worked so hard for in a monthís time
would barely cover my old taxi fares around New York City in a week!),
we settled into a much simpler life. We were in the dance business, and
not even the lucrative ballroom dance business, but the quirky poor step
child known as Argentine Tango. Strangely though, we were happy. We were
free, getting healthy, dancing, teaching, learning, traveling and entertaining
folks from Argentina in our home. Alberto was writing up a storm. Little
by little I started to help with El Firulete. First collating, assembling,
folding, stapling and stamping them for the mail. Everything is done at
home on our computers (and at Kinkoís) and on our dining room table. Everything
is done by us.
Alberto would ask my opinion on this and that, especially regarding
the graphics since I am art school trained. He has excellent instincts,
so instead of trying to do a make-over, I would simply bring him other
magazines whose layouts I liked. I thought we might have a great cover
every month, maybe put a picture of a good looking Tango personality on
it. There was very little material available then, so we improvised. I
started to do photo collages of the local scene and write a gossipy column.
Copy editing chores also became my domain (a craft I admire and still continue
to train for on the job).
A few months after I moved to California we took our first trip back
to New York City together. A reunion with my Tango friends there alerted
me to another viewpoint. I proudly handed out our current issue, and the
response was polite. I asked, whatís missing? The answer was that El Firulete
was too local.
So Alberto and I talked it over, and decided to try to make El Firulete
more national, more international in scope. We wanted to take it from a
local newsletter to an international magazine; to be informative and interesting
for many. Of course, some home town people let us know that they missed
seeing a photo of themselves in every issue, but we were certain that we
were on the right track.
Our trips to Buenos Aires, meeting people from all over the world
both here at home and on the road, our increased study and knowledge, all
culminate in what you see today. We also keep growing as writers, publishers
After five years El Firulete is still self produced, although there
have been conversations about selling it to a publishing conglomerate.
We are always looking for writers, artists and photographers to contribute.
We have thought about going to color, even if it is just the cover. We
have thought about more glossy mainstream paper. We have thought about
changing the size. In the end, and for the moment, we come back to the
black and white (and gray) format as a classic expression. After five years
the size and format have become recognizable and hence classic.
We have had good and bad imitators. Twelve issues with up to twenty
four pages doesnít seem like a such a big deal to generate material for.
It seems easy, until one attempts to do it. Our traveling teaching schedule
complicates this, in a way someone with a full time job, besides the full
time job of producing a publication, encounters. By full time, I mean that
for Alberto, twelve to fourteen hours a day spent at the computer keyboard.
Not to mention reading and re-reading for editing purposes. Not to mention
the clerical work of dealing with mail and subscriptions and the aforementioned
assembling and mailing of the magazine.
Our subscribers are loyal and help finance ink and paper and postage.
It is still Albertoís love child, and it is now my love child too. It is
still our way to give back, because we continue to get so much from all
of you: our readers; our friends; our students; our families; our teachers.
Argentine Tango has been very good to us, and we hope to continue to be
very good for Argentine Tango.