Intoxicating Tango: My Years in Buenos Aires by Cherie Magnus was a captivating read from the very first page. The author used such vivid descriptions to describe her South American expat life that I could picture the chaotic streets and smokey rooms perfectly. Tango is the perfect metaphor for living abroad, really. The seduction, the nuances, the rhythm, the surrender and finally the disillusionment are the stages most expats go through.
In June 2014, Cherie Magnus stepped off a plane with a few suitcases to begin her life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This third installment of the author’s life covers those 10 memorable years in the birthplace of the tango. She tells us how she infiltrated the dance halls of milonguero, mastered the miradas, and tangoed her heart away. What an amazing story!
Although not particularly familiar with the steps of the tango, the author made it come alive in my mind. So don’t let not knowing how to tango keep you from finding pleasure in Ms. Magnus’s accounts as she chronicles the trials and tribulations of learning how to manage in a foreign country.
You don’t have to be well-versed in South American language or culture either to enjoy this particular story. A glossary of Argentine terms was included at the end, which certainly helped on some words that aren’t used in the Spanish speaking country I live in. Mostly though, the Spanish terms were easily understood in the narrative.
I found no typos or spelling errors, although there was that strange twist of fate (or perhaps lapse in editing) that turned Ramon, the Latin lover, into Ruben briefly in chapter 23. The languorous tone that most of the story was told in changed towards the end into more of an anxious and hurried summary of events. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or an unconscious shift mirroring how the events unfolded, but all in all, that was perhaps my only complaint about this fascinating memoir.
The women were honest about the struggles they had to create the life they love in Mexico. All of the women told their stories from the “other side” after prevailing against discrimination, income loss, relationship challenges, and just plain ol’ culture shock. All in all, it’s an inspiring “happy expat” read.
So why did these women leave their home countries? Some left because of the current political climate. Others left to provide life experiences for their children they would not otherwise have. Some women came for the culture, others for the cost of living. Some lost their marriages to Mexico, others found love and stayed.
What did these women find in Mexico? Purpose. Simplicity. Patience. Confidence. Seem like pretty good trade-offs to me.
I would have liked to have seen more stories from women who chose voluntary exile after their spouses were deported, but then perhaps they don’t fit the criteria of “expats”. Most of the women in this anthology were also living in areas full of gringos or small towns near those epicenters, San Miguel de Allende, Mazatlan, Lake Chapala, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel and so on. Perhaps that’s the book I need to write…