Magid “El Guerillero” – Outdoor Street Milonga Organizer – Photographed at Quais de Seine Milonga, Paris, July 2016

“I like to protect the milonga,” El Guerillero says. He sits in a canvas campaign chair, smoking, smiling gently over the dancers. He is someone whose hardness has opened up to reveal a soft core. Still, he always wears something olive drab — often a field jacket but even when he is dressed up there is an olive-drab cap. He is a veteran of war, of love, of life.

When I met him the Euro Cup was being played in France. Groups of drunken footballers would stray into the milonga, pretending to dance, making silly fools of themselves, interrupting the trance. El Guerillero would get up from his chair and walk slowly to the interlopers. Then he would say some quiet words to them or he would raise his arm to point the way out. Even drunks knew better than to contradict him. Invariably, they left without a fuss.

El Guerillero would go back to his chair from whence he smiled his blessing upon the dancers.