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“Cambalache” is an Argentine tango composed in 1934 by Enrique Santos Discépolo and premiered at Buenos Aires’ Teatro Maipo, with its first performance by Sofía “La Negra” Bozán. The song, exclusively authored by Discépolo, was part of the film “El alma del bandoneón.” In the movie, released the following year, Ernesto Famá performed the tango with Francisco Lomuto’s orchestra.

The song was created during Argentina’s Década Infame, a period marked by political and moral decay, themes echoed in its lyrics. Starting from 1943, under a military government campaign, “Cambalache” faced censorship for its use of lunfardo language and references considered immoral or detrimental to the country. The censorship continued under General Perón’s constitutional government until 1949 when Sadaic directors appealed to Perón, who rescinded the censorship after acknowledging its existence.

“Cambalache’s” lyrics, which denounce societal ills, have universal and timeless relevance, mentioning historical and fictional characters like financier Stavisky, priest and educator Don Bosco, Argentine mafioso Juan Galiffi (“don Chicho”), and Italian boxer Carnera. The song also references “la Mignon,” speculated to be either a term of endearment or a character from Goethe’s works.

The song’s versions have varied over time. In a 1955 recording, Julio Sosa with Armando Pontier’s orchestra made notable lyric changes. The song’s famous lines critique society’s moral decay, equating diverse characters and situations, symbolizing the disorder and noise prevalent in places called “cambalache.”

“Cambalache” has significantly impacted popular culture. Its phrase “La Biblia y el calefón” contrasts religious and mundane elements and has been used in television and music, including a TV program hosted by Jorge Guinzburg and a song by Joaquín Sabina. The tango’s opening stanza inspired a Telefe TV program titled “Siglo XX Cambalache.” Luis Eduardo Aute’s song “Siglo XXI” is also inspired by “Cambalache.”

The phrase “el mundo fue y será una porquería, ya lo sé” was paraphrased by musicians Gustavo Cerati, Pedro Aznar, and Charly García in their song “No te mueras en mi casa.” The tango features in the Netflix series “Narcos,” underscoring its cultural significance.

Various artists have recorded their versions of “Cambalache,” including Julio Sosa, Libertad Lamarque, Alfredo Sadel, Caetano Veloso, Fabián Rey and Trío, Tita Merello, Susana Rinaldi, Joan Manuel Serrat, Sumo, Los Estómagos, Los Buitres, Raul Seixas, Hermética, Nacha Guevara, Julio Iglesias, Roberto “Caracol” Paviotti, León Gieco, Andrés Calamaro, Luis Eduardo Aute, Ismael Serrano, Raphael, Liuba María Hevia, and Javier Calamaro. These diverse interpretations highlight the tango’s enduring appeal and adaptability across different music genres and eras.

Here’s a translation of the song lyrics you provided into English, presented in a table format with each verse on a separate line:

Spanish LyricsEnglish Translation
Que el mundo fue y será una porquería ya lo sé…I know the world was and will always be a mess…
(¡En el quinientos seis y en el dos mil también!).(In 1506 and in 2000 too!).
Que siempre ha habido chorros, maquiavelos y estafaos,There have always been thieves, Machiavellians, and swindlers,
contentos y amargaos, valores y dublé…happy and bitter, noble and counterfeit…
Pero que el siglo veinte es un despliegueBut the twentieth century is a display
de maldá insolente, ya no hay quien lo niegue.of insolent evil, undeniable by anyone.
Vivimos revolcaos en un merengue y en un mismo lodoWe’re all mixed up in a mess and muddied together
todos manoseaos…in the same filth…
¡Hoy resulta que es lo mismo ser derecho que traidor!…Today it turns out to be the same, being honest or a traitor!…
¡Ignorante, sabio o chorro, generoso o estafador!Ignorant, wise, a thief, generous, or a swindler!
¡Todo es igual! ¡Nada es mejor!Everything’s the same! Nothing is better!
¡Lo mismo un burro que un gran profesor!The same a donkey as a great professor!
No hay aplazaos ni escalafón, los inmoralesThere are no delays or hierarchy, the immoral ones
nos han igualao. Si uno vive en la imposturahave equaled us. If one lives in imposture
y otro roba en su ambición, ¡da lo mismo que sea cura,and another steals in his ambition, it’s the same whether he’s a priest,
colchonero, rey de bastos, caradura o polizón!…mattress maker, king of clubs, shameless, or a stowaway!…
¡Qué falta de respeto, qué atropello a la razón!What a lack of respect, what an assault on reason!
¡Cualquiera es un señor! ¡Cualquiera es un ladrón!Anyone is a gentleman! Anyone is a thief!
Mezclao con Stavisky va Don Bosco y “La Mignón”,Mixed with Stavisky go Don Bosco and “La Mignón”,
Don Chicho y Napoleón, Carnera y San Martín…Don Chicho and Napoleon, Carnera and San Martín…
Igual que en la vidriera irrespetuosa de los cambalachesJust like in the disrespectful display of the junk shops
se ha mezclao la vida, y herida por un sable sin remacheslife has been mixed, and wounded by a saber without rivets
ves llorar la Biblia contra un calefón…you see the Bible crying against a water heater…
¡Siglo veinte, cambalache problemático y febril!…Twentieth century, problematic and feverish mess!…
El que no llora no mama y el que no afana es un gil!He who doesn’t cry doesn’t suckle and he who doesn’t steal is a fool!
¡Dale nomás! ¡Dale que va! ¡Que allá en el hornoGo ahead! Keep it up! Because there in the oven
nos vamo a encontrar! ¡No pienses más, sentate a un lao,we’re going to meet! Don’t think anymore, sit to one side,
que a nadie importa si naciste honrao!nobody cares if you were born honest!
Es lo mismo el que labura noche y día como un buey,It’s the same for those who work night and day like an ox,
que el que vive de los otros, que el que mata, que el que cura
| o está fuera de la ley… |
as for those who live off others, those who kill, those who heal,
or are outside the law… |

Please note that the translation is done to convey the essence and meaning of the lyrics, and some nuances may vary from the original.