Agua Florida: Florida Water

Many of you will have listened to the beautiful D’Agostino – Vargas tango Agua Florida, but what does that curious title mean? Florida is the adjective of flor, flower, so means ‘floral’ or ‘flowered’, but it has also given its name to things, such as the state of Florida in the US. Here it refers to an eau-de-cologne made from grain alcohol to which orange blossom was added, along with a mixture of spices. Agua de Florida was created in New York by the perfumer Robert Murray in 1808. The name took on additional significance when George Du Maurier (1834-1896) designed a label for Murray, who had been joined in 1935 by David Lannam. Du Maurier took his inspiration from a myth about the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León who was said to have discovered Florida in 1512 while searching for the Fountain of Youth (!). Murray & Lannam’s ‘Agua de Florida’ quickly became used not just as a cologne, but also as a household remedy; today it remains especially popular in Peru, where it has become part of the essential equipment of the nation’s shamans.
Around the turn of the Century – in tango’s very early days – Agua de Florida became popular in Argentina, where it was known as Agua florida (dropping the ‘de’).
In this tango, lyricist Fernando Silva Valdés (writing in 1928) wrote about how the smell of this perfume immediately transported one back to that time. D’Agostino-Vargas is the perfect artist to take us on this sentimental, nostalgic journey.

Agua Florida, vos eras criolla.

Te usaban las pobres violetas del fango
de peinados lisos, como agua’e laguna,
cuando se bailaba alegrando el tango
con un taconeo y una media luna.
Perfume del tiempo taura que pasó,
pues todo en la vida ha de ser así,
cuando las percantas mentían que no
mientras las enaguas decían que sí. [1]

sencillas y querendonas,
que al son de las acordeonas
bailaban un milongón.
que oliendo a Agua Florida
se metían en la vida
a punta de corazón.

Florida Water, you were Creole.

The poor “violets of the mud” used you
with hair as smooth as water from the lagoon,
when a happy tango was danced
with a click of the heels and a media luna [2].
Perfume of those lively days that have passed,
because everything in life has to be like that,
when the girls, lying, said no,
while their fluttering petticoats said yes.

simple and loving,
used to dance a milongón
to the sound of the accordions.
with the smell of Agua Florida
they launched themselves into their lives
with their hearts.

[1] – Vargas changes the lunfardo batían to decían
[2] – Media luna (crescent): a figure making a crescent shape upon the dance floor.

You can read more about Florida Water in a superb article by Sonia Bartol on her blog.