Cruising Mr. Tango

Buenos Aires, Argentina
July 12, 2002

Maria from Buenos Aires called the Reel Asian Film Festival office looking for this dude in the cowboy hat — she has seen a party picture of me from one of the social galas — I got the impression that it might be a shooting gig in Buenos Aires… cool. I was clueless to being cruised.

A few innocent flirty emails led to cyber sex… the next thing you know… Maria is inviting me to come spend Christmas in Tango Land. All my friends were worry that curiosity might just kill the cat. But I’ve never been good at keeping score… out of nine lives… there must still be one left for me. If nothing else, I had to get it outta my system.

Cheuk was also stuck on this idea of finding a gay tango-dancing restaurateur à la Leslie Cheung from “Happy Together”. When I toss the idea around about escaping Toronto for Buenos Aires, he was all excited and contributed to the cause generously for me to find this needle in the haystack. So here I am, Christmas in blazing summer… shorts and tank top… cruising the gay bars in Buenos Aires.

Tango dancers

I’m catching the tail end of the riots in Buenos Aires. The political climate is probably a lot calmer than a year ago when their dollar took a nosedive and peoples’ life assets were frozen or, worse, lost. Maria’s family warns me not to take unmarked taxis and people on the streets tell me to put my camera away. The economic down side has turned people so desperate that you don’t have to be rich to be kidnapped.

Days go by and there’s not a single gay tango-dancing Chinese dude in sight. I, on the other hand, am getting some action while my possessive “fag hag” Maria keeps the “rice queens” at bay. Truth of the matter is… there’re not many Asian dudes around period… gay or straight. At this rate, I’ll settle for a straight Chinese guy with two left feet.

Compare to Brazil, Buenos Aires is pretty much a white town with the majority being Italian or Spanish immigrants. Any dark skins you see are probably Brazilian tourists or migrants from Uruguay. Unlike Havana, the Chinatown in Belgrano here is shut out from everyone else including me.

Today, I finally luck out with Chiang Foo-ching, the Egg Roll King of Argentina. I meet him in his Casa China on Viamonte, a very Parisian neighbourhood. We have tea in an enclosed interior courtyard with a skylight above. I think it would be the ideal place to shoot his interview. The light is beautiful. You can see the balconies to the second story of his living quarters. I feel like we are transplanted somewhere in China inside this oasis. He speaks to me in broken Cantonese/English, and Spanish through Maria when all else fails. His English is not bad from practice with his international clients. His speech is incisive and passionate.

Like most Argentines, Chiang keeps tight attachments to his homeland. But unlike other Argentines, he speaks passionately about making Argentina a better place and developing relations and tides with his homeland China. I think I found my guy for Cheuk.