Cybertango Dicussion from the Tango Mailing List

Articles: [ Deutsch | English ]
  Cybertango: [ Deutsch | English ]
    Geography Page: [ Deutsch | English ]

Piropos - Argentine Flirting

Articles by:

"Adiss florecita de arroz, maqana voy a casarme con vos."
Goodbye little rice flower, tomorrow I will marry you.

Morocha, te moves como el Bolshoi!
Brunet, you move like the Bolshoi Ballet.

Hermosa, atraes tanto que sos como una pared magnetica.
Beautiful, you atract so much that you are like a magnetic wall.

Ay! Si tu cocinas como caminas, quiero comer los rasgos!
OH! If you cook like you walk, I want to eat the scraps!

Se abrio el cielo y bajaron los angeles?
Heavens opened and the angels came down?

Sometimes the piropo reaches the destinatary indirectly, such as when you address the lady that comes walking with her beautiful daughter to say:
Me gustaria que Ud. fuera mi suegra!
I wish you were my mother in law!

Quien fuera eterno para amarte toda la vida.
I wish I was eternal to love you all my life.

Desde cuando lo bombones caminan por la calle?
I did not know, pieces of candy walked in the street.

Si la belleza fuera delito, yo te hubiera dado cadena perpetua.
If beauty were a crime, you would deserve life in prison.

Some Piropos from Spain:

Con lo que se te ve...y lo que se te imagina; yo ya tengo bastante.
With that you that I imagine; I have enough.

Bendita sea la madre que te ha parido.
Blessed be the mother that gave you birth.

Date:    Thu, 23 Sep 1999 13:10:38 -0500
From:    Tom Ronquillo
Subject: Argentine Flirting (long)

A woman friend of mine who grew up in Buenos Aires sent me the following
article about piropos. Some of us on the list are old enough to remember
when flirtation was a skill that was as important as how well one
danced. Today, my younger latina feminista acquaintances will engage me
in vociferous debate about the wrongfulness of such sexist behavior. In
response, I will say to them that I am still evolving. Then I will tell
them how beautiful they look when they are angry at me.

Tom (El Tigre) Ronquillo > Travel May 7, 1999

The Argentine art of flirting A young American learns to stop resisting
and love the piropo.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Kaitlin Quistgaard
Amid the pale purple jacaranda of Plaza San Martmn, I fell into one of
those impossibly long stares that strangers engage in here. I had been
in Buenos Aires a week and my inner Argentine, developed during a
previous four-year love-hate battle with the place -- a battle that had
ended with my return to the States two years before -- was on an
unprecedented high. Pheromones were no doubt wafting up from the crowd
of park-bench lovers and the full-bodied Italianate Spanish was infusing
my thoughts as the night jasmine perfumed the city streets.

So I playfully clung to his silvery gray eyes. We didn't trade smiles or
winks, but my chest tingled with a soundless giggle. It was good to be
back on the teasingly sensual Argentine streets. But that night, as the
wooden plates were being cleared from a gluttonous asado in which we'd
sampled every cut of beef that could be barbecued, my friend Peter
challenged the longevity of such public sensuality. I didn't hear what
prompted the thought, but his words rang out across the raucous dinner
party: "They don't say as many piropos these days."

A piropo is the most simpatico of flirtations -- a kind of street poetry
that a man whispers just when he's close enough to look a woman in the
eye. Traditionalists might memorize a rhyme popularized decades ago,
like "Adiss florecita de arroz, maqana voy a casarme con vos." (Goodbye
little rice flower, tomorrow I will marry you.) But even a mundane "!Qui
piernas!" (What legs!), when delivered by a bewitching flatterer, is
pure excitement -- a moment of unexpected intimacy with a stranger --
and then, before your cheeks have fully flushed, he's gone.

I had come to think of the piropo as the Latin-lover cousin of the white
trash catcall. In the American version, a construction worker, towering
above the world on a scaffold, whistles at a bouncy giglet on the
sidewalk below, drawing upon her the cruelest attention. But the piropo
is subtle -- with refined machismo, it replaces public humiliation with
a private fantasy of romance. At most, a person walking beside you might
hear, but often no one, not even the mystery man, looks to see your
response. The compliment arrives quietly, like an anonymous gift.

I was horrified to think the tradition might be dying. Of course, this
stunning revelation was delivered by an eccentric foreigner -- a
curry-addicted Catholic who had foolishly traded Bombay for Buenos Aires
a quarter-century ago, only to be generally known as el hindz, since
Spanish makes no allowances for monotheistic Indians. As a non-native,
non-female, Peter would have seemed an odd expert on Argentine machismo
-- but even after an afternoon of sidewalk flirtation, I trusted him to
know. With a fine frosting of gray hair, a well-rounded belly and deep
brown eyes that barely shielded his heart from full view, Peter was
always surrounded by women, playing confidant and romantic advisor to
many -- including, I must admit, me. He had been my best friend in the
final days of my expat extravaganza, the one who suffered through every
grating argument about the narrow-mindedness that could flourish in
these narrow streets -- and in my ex-lover. He also had an inquisitive
mind and when we'd gone on assignment together -- he as photographer, me
as journalist -- he would end up asking all the questions. Now I
presumed he'd been interviewing piropeadores.

Viviana leaned into the table, pushing herself into the conversation
with a coquettish wink, and said, "I don't hear as many piropos these
days, but it's hard to know whether that's because they say them less or
they just don't say them to me." There was an eruption of little-girl
giggles around the table as the women -- every one a vibrant young babe
sculpted into a form-fitting dress -- inwardly tallied their recent
piropos and laughed. Cecilia, with her ebony tresses and voluptuous
curves, took the apparent deficit of piropos with the same good humor
with which she received the verbal ogling itself. Gisela, too, shrugged
off the dearth of piropos and set her fairy-blue eyes teasingly upon
Felipe. He and the other men at the table tickled their wine glasses and
crumbled their bread, but said nothing.

I wasn't so quick to kiss the piropo goodbye. How many times had I been
hurtling down Avenida Santa Fi, plagued by some inane job-related worry,
only to have it washed away by a furtive smile and a flattering line?
"With eyes as bright as yours, who needs the sun?" There were times when
a morning greeting of "!Diosa!" (Goddess!) was enough to bring on a
secret, blushing smile that lasted all day.

It wasn't that I was so hard up for attention. Like many an expat, I had
bound myself to Argentina with a passionately woven romance. I think,
actually, I had gathered piropos like tokens of acceptance from my new
country. Their delivery was predicated on the belief that I understood
both the language and the culture of the piropo, which is so foreign to
my American roots that if there existed some kind of world consciousness
that could identify me as a yanqui, I never would have been treated to a
single one. But these mysterious piropeadores behaved toward me as if I
was Argentine, and it was as if by comprehending them, I became one.

A bittersweet nostalgia for that seqorita I had struggled to become
rippled through me as I polished off a final espresso and began the
requisite round of cheek-kissing goodbyes. Peter directed the taxi to
Viviana's place, where I was staying while working on a travel video.
Then, sitting up front while Viviana and I commandeered the back seat,
he asked the driver if it was true that they said fewer piropos these
days. The taxista, who was in his 50s and surely putting in 14-hour days
to make a living, agreed. "There's no time," he said flatly. "Everyone's
in a hurry. There's no siesta anymore, no time to dream up silly

By then we had left the curving cobblestone streets and crumbling, belle
ipoque barrio of San Telmo and were barreling down Avenida 9 de Julio,
heralded as the widest in the world since the government bulldozed a
collective of neoclassical mansions to roll out eight lanes in each
direction. During the day it was a motionless sea of traffic, and even
now, at 2 a.m. on a weeknight, it was busy -- quick schools of red tail
lights darting past the opulent opera house and into the current of
another rushing boulevard.

Memories of my Argentine life cascaded down these avenues, and I
recalled discomforting moments during my education in the ways of this
sensual culture: It had been unnerving to learn that the piropo was not
always an anonymous affair. Countless times, I had arrived at the office
of some government minister or well-known executive whose secretary had
put me off for weeks, and the big muckety-muck would size me up while
shaking my hand and purr, "If I had known you were so beautiful, I would
have agreed to the interview ages ago."

At first, I would just freeze and return their winking words with an icy
handshake. But gradually, as the filter through which I had been trained
to view the world dissolved, I found humor in these fawning men in
suits. Sure, they were sexist and a bit grotesque, but they hadn't been
schooled to not say what they were really thinking. And their admission
of attraction -- if you could even call it that -- seemed harmless. I
suppose any feminist would have howled at my apathy, but by then I would
have howled right back if I could have found the party responsible for
draining the sweaty-palmed humanity, with its unchecked crushes and
flirtatious freedoms, from my homeland. Over time, I came to revel in
Argentina's unbridled acceptance of everyday sexuality, and with my
feminist education and Seven Sisters diploma in tow, learned to offer a
smile and genuine thanks to these piropador-acquaintances, before
turning to the interview at hand.

I awoke the next morning in the tiny twin bed in Viviana's apartment,
troubled by the dwindling piropos and wondering what such a change would
portend for Argentina's relationship to sexuality. If the taxi driver
was right and over-busy lives were to blame, I wondered if the country
would ever recover. The government was hellbent on arriving in the
devoutly worshipped First World; competition, longer workdays and the
American entertainment monoculture had long begun their beguiling
encroachments on simpler ways of life. I could hardly bear to think that
my sexual paradise -- not that of an easy lay, but one in which casual
attraction had a voice -- could be Americanizing. The last thing the
world needs is another prudish freak show of a country, I thought,
hanging my towel beside the bidet and pulling on a sleek black dress.

I slipped into a taxi and headed to La Boca. The portside brothels and
bars that had witnessed the birth of Argentina's sultry tango had long
given way to an impoverished barrio turned tour-bus standard. Decades
ago the cheap rent had attracted artists, who converted the little
houses on stilts into an outrageous palette of kaleidoscoping reds,
greens and purples. Now a booming business in sidewalk watercolors and
other "local crafts" attracted European and American tourists. I hadn't
ventured here for six years, since the very first week of my Argentine
sojourn, and wouldn't have been back if the blatant color schemes
weren't perfect for TV.

But it turned out to be a godsend, for here I met Oscar, a vaguely
creepy street artist and tango dancer. Handsome and aging, he absolutely
dripped with Argentinity beneath a pale fedora and worn blazer. My
question about what time the art stalls opened prompted the first piropo
of my trip: For a woman as beautiful as I, he said, the stalls would
open at any hour. With a hint of a smile, I asked if it was true that
they say less piropos these days. "Sadly, it is," he replied. Asking my
permission, Oscar led me to a nearby park bench, arranged his silk
aviator's cravat, lit up a cigarette and told me the history of piropos.

"In the old days," he said, looking straight into my eyes with
familiarity, "men came alone to try their luck in the New World. They
left their wives and families behind. Soon there were far more men than
women in Argentina. How do you get the attention of the only woman
around?" His eyes followed a passing teenage girl, whose deep tan traced
its way from her painted toes right up to the hem of her 4-inch skirt.
"By saying the most beautiful words. It's the same as dancing the tango
-- maybe you're ugly, but if you are a beautiful dancer, you have a
His chatter drifted toward the salacious dance and he began, as any tour
book would, to tell me how it had been prohibited in Argentina until
news of its European popularity reached these shores and gave it cachet
with the locals. He made a valiant effort to impress me with his travels
to the United States to lecture on the tango, while running his eyes
over my legs. I steered him back to the piropo.

"Men used to dress well, act properly and try to impress the girls.
Today everything is much more aggressive," Oscar said. The famed
melancholy of the tanguero spread across the elegant lines of his face.
"The city runs at such speed. And women ask men out. You don't need a
polished turn of phrase to get a girl to sleep with you."

There was something uncomfortably forward about his manner as he said
so, and for a moment I wondered if he had interpreted my pert response
to his piropo as some kind of invitation. The woman my mother raised me
to be wouldn't have dreamed of sharing a park bench with a flirtatious
art-hawker. She would have run at the slightest sexual innuendo. But in
Argentina, I could only chuckle, finding no hint of impropriety in his
banter. I relaxed back into my seat."Before, I would work a piropo in my
head until it was something wonderful.

Then, if I impressed her enough with the verse, maybe she'd agree to
have a coffee with me. If she found me interesting, maybe she'd give me
her number. And maybe we'd go out again. It was all very slow." He shook
his head, enraptured by the memory of a difficult, old-fashioned
conquest. For a second I wondered if this story -- told by a man who had
mentioned that he'd been married more than 30 years and spoke proudly of
his grown daughter -- was more fantasy than truth.

In any case, it was time for me to get back to work. I thanked Oscar and
began to extricate myself from his reminiscences with a goodbye
handshake. He insisted on giving me his card, then pulled my hand
closer. "Remember," he said, reprimanding my cold exit strategy,
"everything here is a kiss." His lips brushed my cheek and he took his
leave with a broad smile.

That evening, sitting on the floor with a glass of Malbec, I recounted
the tale to Viviana. What was really going on with the piropo? After
all, Oscar, that peddler of art and history and flirtation, had agreed
with my friend Peter's theory that its popularity was diminishing. And
like the taxista, he blamed its demise on speed and modernity. But our
whole damn encounter had been a piropo. Oscar's scheme had worked on me:
He'd said something charming that had enticed me to pass half the
morning with him. At that Viviana nodded and broke into a rollicking

I called Peter. I was eager to tell him the story of Oscar and discover
the genesis for his theory of the dying piropo. Filming on my travel
video was starting the next day and I was moving to a downtown hotel to
join the crew, so Peter and I arranged to meet in the lobby after I
checked in.

I gave Viviana a goodbye kiss and headed downstairs to find a taxi. The
sidewalk was busy with children coming home from soccer and ballet, and
friends parting ways following an after-work drink. An unoccupied taxi
was just coming into view as the silhouette of a man came up the street.
I saw only dark hair, a brown coat. But then his eyes pierced mine and
with the practiced flourish of a piropeador, he gestured at my luggage
and asked, "Oh sweetness, must you leave so soon?"

I was besieged by silent giggles and a faint blush as he disappeared
into the hazy pink evening. | May 7, 1999

top of page
Date:    Thu, 30 Sep 1999 13:28:36 -0400
From:    SERGIO

Morocha, te moves como el Bolshoi!
Brunet, you move like the Bolshoi Ballet.

Hermosa, atraes tanto que sos como una pared magnetica.
Beautiful, you atract so much that you are like a magnetic wall.

I dedicate this piropos to all the beautiful ladies in our list.
top of page
Date:    Thu, 30 Sep 1999 14:01:37 -0400
From:    Nancy Ingle
Subject: Piropos

My favorite, delivered on the streets of Madrid:

  Ay!  Si tu cocinas como caminas, quiero comer los rasgos!

  OH!  If you cook like you walk, I want to eat the scraps!

   Gotta' tell you it is a real thrill for a 50+ woman to hear after a hard
day of being a tourist!!

Nancy Ingle

"He danced well, as if it were natural and joyous in him to dance, [with] a
certain subtle exultation like glamour in his movement, and his face the
flower of his body."       D. H. Lawrence

top of page
Date:    Thu, 30 Sep 1999 23:18:38 -0400
From:    SERGIO
Subject: Piropos y El Fileteado - Not short but not very long either -

We have been discussing some of the characteristic elements of Buenos Aires,
such as Los Piropos. The habit of delivering a verbal flower to the ladies
that pass by, while you are walking in the street.The perennial flirting, in
the form of staring, smiling, winking, slight contact, innocently delivered
and received, in the street, parks, stores, public transportation, etc.

Another characteristic of Buenos Aires has been EL FILETEADO, an art and a
craft, in the form of beautiful paintings, that are exhibited by trucks,
colectivos (small busses)and in the past also by the carts of fruit vendors,
milkmen, etc.
They were originally introduced in Argentina by immigrants that brought the
ORNATTO ITALIANO AND THE FRENCH ROCOCO, pictorial artistic forms that would
very soon take their unique expression, usually combined with phrases such
as, in a truck, "What is heavy is not the load, but the taxes" -  "Lo que
pesa no es la carga, son los impuestos"; another trucker " Y yo que pensaba
ser doctor" - "Look at me! I thought I was going to be a Medical Doctor"- or
the MODEST one that says," Las rubias, las pelirrojas y las morenas son el
alivio de mis penas" - " The blonds, the red haired, and the brunettes,
alleviate my sorrows".

The art of The Filete and the Fileteadores are part of the Folklore of the
City, rooted very deeply in the urban mentality, associated as a typical
expression of a sector of the population; usually blue collar workers that
express their feelings, touching different areas such as love, work,
friendship, or sarcastic complaints.
Those that visit Buenos Aires may find pieces of fileteado at the Sunday
flee market in San Telmo.

top of page
Date:    Fri, 1 Oct 1999 15:37:42 -0500
From:    Tom Ronquillo
Subject: Piropos and Tangos

In its best form, a piropo subtly communicates that we view someone as
attractive. At its worst, it can be a vulgar, disrespectful verbal

I suggest that some of the things that make piropos enjoyable are
similar to what makes a good tango. Namely, artistry, subtlety,
respectfulness, fantasy and confidence. Conversely, the elements that
make piropos and tangos unpleasant are vulgarities, forcing, disrespect,
relentlessness and false bravado. Anyone care to add more to either

At the heart of the piropo discussion might be the essence of why people
dance tango. Piropos and tangos can be fun. Both invite intimacy. Both
allow fantasy. Both require skill to to well. Both are arenas where age
is not a limiting factor. (Recall self described "50 + woman" Nancy
Ingle's now famous walk that caused a Spanish heart to flutter. BTW, the
Cuban version of what Nancy heard is: "If you cook the way you walk, I'd
like to lick the pot." A bit more forward, those Cubanos!)

A sweet piropo or exquisite tango can be one of life's special treats.
Are piropos a dying art form from an earlier era? Perhaps. But, there
are a few practitioners around who can still move their tongues as
skillfully as their feet. And judging from some of the reponses in this
thread, there are even a few women left who enjoy it.

Tom (El Tigre) Ronquillo

top of page
Date:    Fri, 1 Oct 1999 20:26:10 -0500
From:    dmcree
Subject: Mas Piropos

Hello list members,

I've been enjoying the discussion of piropos, particularly Tom's
observations about the elements that make a good piropo or a good tango.

For those who may be interested there is a web site (of course!) dedicated
to "Piropos de amor y amistad." There are some 300 piropos on this site and
visitors (men and women) are invited to submit new ones they've heard or
used. Some of them are quite sappy sounding (to someone of my cultural
upbringing) , but many are rather clever. The site is in Spanish (no English

The URL is

Even if you only have an intermediate reading ability in Spanish you can
enjoy trying to figure some of them out if you like a challenge!

David McRee, Bradenton, Florida, USA

top of page
Date:    Wed, 6 Oct 1999 13:45:30 -0400
From:    "L: Anne-Sophie Ville"
Subject: Re: Another Piropo?

A good friend of mine had a great one while we were in Buenos Aires two years
ago.  For the whole evening a guy talked to her in spanish, the trick is that
she doesn't understand spanish...  No problem,  the guy talked to her and went
on and on on how beautiful she was, and that he would like to see her again
..... all the time helped by a friend of his who was translating in english.

At the end, he said to my friend:  I know that we might not be together now, but
if, in one of my future life, I can spend only one day with you, that will be
the best day of my entire existence...."

top of page
Date:    Wed, 6 Oct 1999 19:03:23 -0400
From:    Christina Burtis
Subject: piropos, tango & Buenos Aires

ahh Sergio, keeping the tradition alive. ;)

This reminds me of the recent literary work of Julie Taylor I picked up last winter - Paper Tangos. Formally a dancer, Ms. Taylor is a professor at Rice University who lived in Buenos Aires for many years. This book is about her experience interacting with the culture told through the medium of her leaning the tango (with interesting flip-images). Intense HenryJames-like, forigner-interfacing-with-the-local-culture theme. You may hate it or love it, disagree or agree with her impressions, but it is a very interesting and relevant read. I remember her mentioning piropos; it went like this:
The male psychiatrist said: Don't believe that piropos are innocent. There is always an ulterior motive.

The boy on the street said, smiling as he passed me: Just a little longer and I could climb up the braid to win the princess.

Anita, moving among clients in the hair salon, said: A guy and on top of it a tanguero - that's a changed atmosphere. But the kids - the ones on the street - those piropos are innocent.

Another boy said, in what I always recounted as my piropo m=E1ximo, "Se F1ora, perhaps you could let me be your son." "But I have a son your age," I laughed. "I could be the oldest son," he laughed back. After which he gallantly

presented me with a very large bonbon, and my bus swept me away..... (pg. 95)


My take: I think there are probably different levels of innocence. ;) ;) ;) As there are different kinds of men, different kinds of situations. Its definitely a charming tradition in any event. No, I don't feel its a put-down for American men. Yes, I can tell the difference between a harmless compliment and unacceptable vulgarity. American men may have gotten similar "piropos" impulses beaten out of them over the last three decades in the wake of feminism's progress and the ulterior motives of some people to misuse and abuse the howl of "sexual harassment". Sad I think, because I know the "piropos impulse" is in our men. Maybe that's why tango is now again all the rage.

Has anyone else read other works of Argentine literature that deals with tango? Does Luis Jorge Borges involve tango in his writings? I heard that he does. Very relevant to tango. It would be a highly foolish and unpleasant thing to want to divorce the Argentine culture from Argentine Tango.

Which brings me to mention an exhibit that I was completely thrilled to run into yesterday. "Buenos Aires 1910 - 2000, Before & After" Absolutely THRILLING to see this collection of photos and items from that city's time period (most things are from 1910.) We are talking tango's young heyday, with its international fame and Golden Era on the horizon. I found myself completely lost in the dozens and dozens of photos of the city's development. At one point I realized I was searching the depicted street corners and the faces of the immigrants for the essence of tango's beginnings. They were all there - the city and the people that gave us the tango. Their tango. Its an amazing exhibit, and travelling I think. Look for it. If you are in the DC area, a portion of it is generally accessible and at the State Department. The portion I saw was in the main hall of the World Bank Group headquarters off of Penn. Ave. and closed to the general public unless you know a staff member. But again, I think its travelling so watch for it.


Kind regards,

Christina Burtis
(a.k.a. Melenita de Oro)
Washington, D.C.

top of page

Date:    Fri, 8 Oct 1999 01:16:38 -0400
From:    SERGIO
Subject: Piropo definition

Piropo by definition is a sentence comical and poetic ( that does not offend
the recipient), that men tell  women when they go by in the street.

So if somebody says something offensive, that is not a PIROPO.
Piropos are meant to please a lady not to offend.

Flirting is present as part of daily life in most of the Latin countries;
Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Latin America.
EL PIROPO, however, is a Spanish tradition. Spain took this beautiful custom
to all the areas of her empire, from Spain to the Filipines, and from Mexico
to Argentina.

Some Piropos from Spain:

Con lo que se te ve...y lo que se te imagina; yo ya tengo bastante.
With that you that I imagine; I have enough.

Bendita sea la madre que te ha parido.
Blessed be the mother that gave you birth.

Piropo from Argentina:

Si la belleza fuera delito, yo te hubiera dado cadena perpetua.
If beauty were a crime, you would deserve life in prison.

top of page
Garrit Fleischmann Okt.99
Email: kontakt(at)