|Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) and colonel Jean Gardes (1914-2000)|
The outline of the family lore of the ancestors of Elena Irene Gardes went like this: after the parents of Gardel's mother Berthe divorced, Berthe moved in with her uncle's family, and had an illicit relationship with her cousin, a few years junior. She gave birth to a boy Charles (future Carlos Gardel) and was forced to flee to South America. (To those who sincerely believe that Gardel was South America's native son, born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay, I have to apologize. There is plenty of room for legends in the story of Carlos Gardel, and I respect your faith, but you probably shouldn't read any further). There are also plenty of reasons why the immigrants occasionally need dubious documents and certificates (as did Gardel when he obtained a certificate of birth in Uruguay), but I'm going to stick with El Zorzal's actual genealogy in this post.
|"Heartbroken". "Doña Berta" Gardes mourns her son (and right away, we witness another fringe|
theory about their identity...)
|Berthe Gardes with her beloved first cousin Marie "Marissou"|
and her sister-in-law Charlotte on one of her many visits
to her home town, Toulouse. More great imagery here.
Elena Irene Gardes believed that Berthe's uncle was her own great-grand Louis Geniez Gardes, who lived in Saint-Geniez d'Olt in Avyeron, some 120 miles from Toulouse. Jean-Claude Barrat insisted that the uncle in question was his 2nd great-grandfather Bruno Marie Barrat (the husband of Berthe's aunt, Jeanne Petronille Gardes) in Toulouse, at 4 rue du Canon d'Arcole. Adding to Barrat's story, his 2nd cousin Henri Brune, a great-grandson of Bruno Marie Barrat and Berthe's aunt, Jeanne Petronille Gardes, told about meeting Gardel in Toulouse in 1934, a year before the Zorzal's untimely death. Henri was 13 years old then, and he remembered Gardel as kind and generous, "a real Argentine spirit". They held a family reunion at the house of Gardel's uncle Jean Gardes at 16 Allées de Barcelone.
|4 rue du Canon d'Arcole, Toulouse, the birth place of Charles Romuald Gardes better known as Carlos Gardel|
As to the identity of Gardel's secret father, Elena Irene Gardes has not just one but two theories. One is that Berthe was romantically involved with a first cousin, several years her junior. Elena Irene Gardes names this cousin as "Joseph, a seminarian" who supposedly had to leave France as well, and lived in Asia and Africa before settling in Buenos Aires, where his descendant, Marie Thérèse Gardes, still lived; his grandson, Dr. Heriberto Gardes (1924-1916), born and deceased in Pehuajó, was a pediatric surgeon, and another descendant Esteban Ramón Gardes, lived in Eldorado. Heriberto remembered that his grandfather José Gardes first settled in San Mauricio, Rivadavia, but after few years moved to Pehuajó and established a private Catholic school there. Joseph's brother Eduardo is said to have emigrated to Argentina as well; Eduardo's son Luciano, born in in Saint-Geniez d'Olt, lived in Fortín Olavarría. Luciano's children eventually moved to BsAs: Irene, born in 1919, and Juan Oscar Gardes, born in August 1929. No such persons can be found on Gardel's detailed family tree, and we must conclude that the story of Joseph's fatherhood must be an invention of yet another Argentine branch of the Gardeses. But the story of Gardel's father being a first cousin of Berthe, and a son of the uncle with whom she lived after her parents' divorce, is supported by relatives in Toulouse and Paris. This cousin is said to have been Jean Claire Barrat, 3 years younger than Berthe.
|Gardel's most detailed family tree, a result of much archive and cemetery work and interviews,|
published in 1998 by Christiane Bricheteau
But what about the Parisian Gardeses, the ones who gave the initial nudge for this post? They intensely disapproved of El Zorzal and of tango in general, but were well aware of the secret of Gardel's birth. They also had their own, quite sinister, connection to Argentina...
|Jean Gardes is said to have been the most decorated|
lieutenant of the French Army in 1944/1945
|The cover of Marie-Monique Robin's 2008 book|
"Escadrons de la mort, l'école française"
("Death squads, French school") juxtaposes images of
1961 OAS putchists with Argentine Dirty War leaders
Only it wasn't quite a humanitarian kind of relief. As a French investigative reporter Marie-Monique Robin found out, the condition of colonel Jean Gardes's entry was that he will help train Argentine counterinsurgency forces. His handler was an Argentine Naval intelligence officer, Federico Lucas Roussillon, and his appointment, at the infamous ESMA. Ostensibly a school of naval mechanics, ESMA was already turning into the death squad central. In a few years, it will emerge as the chief illegal detention and torture facility of the Dirty War, and after the end of the military dictatorship - into the memorial museum of the thousands of Argentines tortured and killed there (it is symbolic that on the same Canada trip, I got listen to Mary-Claire King's talk about her DNA work with the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, using genetic testing to reunite grandmothers whose daughters "disappeared" in the terror with their secretly adopted, or rather stolen, grandchildren)
Colonel Jean Gardes taught psy-ops, reportedly having to resort to a Communist movie denouncing the abuses of the Algerian war as a visual aid (one has to wonder if the Frenchman's secret wish was to be fired from this job...). It doesn't look like his appointment lasted, anyway. Soon, he was resettled in faraway Neuquén, and turned to the family line of business - fine French food, manufacturing paté de foie. 5 years later, he received a pardon and returned to France. The family recalled that he's got back his military rank and decorations. Interestingly, Jean Gardes's grandson followed many of his footsteps, graduating from l'Ecole Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr and serving in many missions abroad - but he is a prominent member of Gaullist Union today!
I believe that Colonel Jean Gardes's involvement with the Argentine special forces and ESMA has been short and largely superficial, and that he just wasn't a ruthless henchman they wanted. Still, the comparison between two Gardeses' fate in BsAs, between tango's formative years and its Dark Ages, is sad and uncanny... and I would appreciate it if someone with a better knowledge of the matters helps me understand it better