I see that the one comment on my Carlos Gardel piece for “Fresh Air” brings up the old controversy about where he was born. I don’t generally respond to any NPR comments, but since this does concern a matter of fact, I will do a post here about it.
The short answer: the vast preponderance of evidence indicates Gardel was born in Toulouse, France and the most authoritative sources accept that. There’s even convincing explanations for the confusion. Look up “where Carlos Gardel born” and you will find plenty of scoop. Here’s quotes from three strong sources:
“Gardel was probably born in France, as there is a French birth certificate in his name and the French birth has the most evidence supporting the claim. When he died, he had a Uruguayan passport that stated his birthplace as Tacuarembo, Uruguay; his Uruguayan papers may have been falsified in order to avoid the French military draft.”
“Gardel’s actual birthplace is disputed and evokes considerable controversy: it is assumed he was born in France as there is a French birth certificate; however there is a passport stating his birthplace as Uruguay, and we know that he came to Argentina at the age of two – hence there are three countries that claim him as their own: France, Uruguay and Argentina.
As a result of the passport, some Uruguayans claim that Gardel was actually born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay – though no Uruguayan birth certificate, manuscripts, or even records of Gardel’s parents can be brought forward to back the claim. In fact in 1937 when Gardel’s will and origin was contested, the Uruguayan government confirmed he was born in France.
To account for this confusion, the Gardel historian Luis Feldman said of Gardel:
Since he could not return to France with the name of CHARLES ROMUALD GARDES, because he was a war deserter, he made a passport in the name of CARLOS GARDEL, born in TACUAREMBO, URUGUAY, on December 11, 1887.”
“International scholars continue to argue over Gardel’s origins; Uruguay also claims him as its own. But biographer Oswaldo Barsky says documents prove Gardel was born in Charles Romuald Gardes in Toulouse, France, to a single mother.”
In a show of his typical charm, Gardel would often say he was born in Argentina when he was 2 1/2 years old.