“Lo de Hansen” was a very exclusive restaurant located in a ranch in the Parques de Palermo, near the limits of the 19th century city of Buenos Aires. It played an important role in the popularization of tango by introducing tango musicians of the first generation to the upper classes. It was demolished in 1912 but remained a legend of tango history.
The “Restaurant del parque 3 de Febrero y J. Hansen” was founded in 1877 by a German immigrant named Juan Hansen. During the day it was popular with good families coming for a daytrip to the park and stopping by for drinks and lunch. In the evening it was very animated with lights and exclusive entertainment for the high society.
Ángel Villoldo, Ernesto Ponzio, Luis Teisseire and Roberto Firpo are some of the first generation tango musicians who were featured at Lo de Hansen. Carlos Gardel also performed there in his youth, though he was not involved with tango yet.
There is a widespread believe that people used to dance tango at Lo de Hansen, as suggested in the 1937 movie “Los Muchachos de antes no usaban gomina“. However there is little evidence of that being accurate and it is in fact unlikely that tango music was ever performed on this site during Hansen’s lifetime.
Hansen past away in 1892 and the restaurant became the Cafe Tarana, owned by Anselmo Tarana. However people continued referring to it as Lo de Hansen.
What we do know for a fact, because of documented police reports, is that Ángel Villoldo’s tango “El esquinazo” was quite a hit at the Tarana in 1902. In fact it was banned because of the turmoil it caused when enthusiastic patrons began banging on tables and dishes to the point where the owner feared for his property. It is said that is was nearly destroyed once and there are reports of a warning sign saying “Forbidden to play the tango “El Esquinazo“.
According to Roberto Firpo, there was never any tango dancing at Lo de Hansen because dances involving “cortes and quebradas” were forebidden at that time. If Lo de Hansen gained a reputation for being a place where people danced the tango, it was most probably because of isolated cases of law defying acts. Not because it held sophisticated dance parties such as those we see in the 1937 movie.
The Tarana was demolished in 1912 by intendent Joaquín S. de Anchorena to open up the road to the Velódromo. Lo de Hansen was declared “Sitio de interés cultural” by the city of Buenos Aires in 1994. It is beautifully evoked in a 1929 tango by Francisco Canaro and Manuel Romero, “Tiempos viejos”.
Benaros, León. “El tango y los lugares y casas de baile.” In La historia del tango, primera epoca. Buenos Aires: Corregidor, 1977.
Sitios de interes cultural: Lo de Hansen. Online. http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/areas/cultura/cpphc/sitios/detalle.php?id=4
“La historia del cafe de Hansen”. La Nación, August 22, 2017. Online. https://www.lanacion.com.ar/2054462-la-historia-del-cafe-de-hansen-un-mitico-bar-de-palermo-donde-se-prohibio-un-tango