In the corner of a quaint neighborhood in East Austin stands a bright red and yellow building. What was once a church and former home of Church of the Friendly Ghost, now is home to Esquina Tango, a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of Latin American cultural activities.
As implied by the name, Esquina Tango started in 2008 as a simple solution for the lack of places in Austin that offered tango classes.
“There’s no place where the heart is tango,” said Monica Caivano, one of the owners of Esquina Tango (pictured below).
Caivano, with her proclaimed partner in crime, Gustavo Simplis, chose the church on East 3rd and Pedernales to open a place for Austinites to learn tango. Caivano has taught the sensual Argentine dance style in Austin since 1997, while tango has always been a part of Simplis’ life.
As Esquina Tango started drawing more people, it quickly evolved beyond dance, as more classes and programs were added such as yoga, conversational Spanish and movie nights.
“We started with the concept of a nonprofit tying the community and culture. Making things accessible for neighbors, children, everybody,” said Caivano.
And Esquina Tango seems to do just that. The nonprofit hosts weekly and nightly programs that offer something for everyone of all statuses. The free summer youth programs, which teach children and teens different types of dances, such as cumbia, salsa, polka and tango, has brought in parents and students from a wide span of Austin.
“We have neighbors from down the street. We have people that come from 360,” Caivano said.
Karly Brown, a member and a volunteer for Esquina Tango, noticed the diversity within the organization from what she’s seen in some of her dance classes.
“It’s very interesting to me because it really fills the generation gap. I danced with an 80-year-old man,” Branch said.
Esquina’s programs run for little to no cost or by donations. However, if prices are discouraging, one can volunteer their time helping with events or in the office in exchange for dance lessons.
Caivano and Simplis also rely on grants and membership fees to help cover the costs that is required for the programs to function.
“We try to keep it small. We try to keep it like a cultural center,” Simplis said. “Our classes and events depend on what the people need.”