Entertainment

A-Z-U-C-A-R! Here’s A Quick History Lesson About Salsa And Its Growth Around The World

If you want to dance to impress (and have a great time overall) at any party you’re at, salsa dancing is the way to go. We’re breaking down the history of this revered form of music and dancing, from its Cuban roots to its greatest performers, including la reina herself—Celia Cruz—and how cities from New York to Miami are still keeping the dance form alive.

Salsa is more than just a music genre, it is a dance style that is unique to its origin.

Salsa’s roots started out on the eastern side of Cuba, taking its musical cue from Son cubano and mambo. As well, the drum rhythms and dance moves from Afro-Cuban dance and music shaped the musical style. Not to be forgotten are elements of Spanish flamenco guitar which was brought to Cuba by troubadours and were incorporated into the son style.

During the 1950s, a style of salsa called rueda de casino emerged around Cuba.

Other names for the style are rueda or casino rueda. Dancers move about in pairs or solo, and dance movements are called out with phrases such as “dame una” (give me one) or “exhibela” (show her off.) The dance was made at members-only clubs on the island, called casino deportivos.  

The musical style of salsa started to make its way from Cuba to the U.S. around the same decade rueda de casino was developed.

????????Rueda de casino o rueda cubana es un círculo de parejas que bailan salsa cubana y donde las mujeres van cambiando de pareja. Todos bailan con todos. Hay un cantante que nombra las figuras y todos los miembros las hacen al mismo tiempo. Mínimo son necesarias dos parejas y el máximo no tiene límite. Al ser un círculo, desde arriba parece un periscopio, no os parece? Esto es parte de la coreo Agua pa Yemayá que hicimos con nuestro grupo Aché???????? ???????? Rueda de casino oder Rueda cubana ist ein Kreis von Paaren, die kubanische Salsa tanzen und wo die Frauen die Männer wechsel. Alle tanzen mit allen. Es gibt einen "Cantante" oder Sänger, der die Figuren singt und alle machen diese Figuren gleichzeit. Man braucht mindestens 2 Paare und der Maximum ist unbegrenz. Es ist ein Kreis und deswegen sieht von oben wie ein Periskop, glaubt ihr nicht? Das ist ein Teil von der Coreo Agua pa Yemayá die wir mit unserer Gruppe Aché gemcaht haben.???????? ➡️➡️Follow us in Facebook: Ricard & Laia Salsa ???????? #aguapayemayá #ruedadecasino #ruedacubana #definiciónruedacubana #dame #rueda #salsa #salsacubana #coreo #desdearriba #salsabayern #salsawürzburg #salsainwürzburg #wasistruedadecasino #ricardylaia #tanzen #würzburgdieneuesalsahauptstadt #würzburg mit @anna.kordumanova @martinakouratoraki

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Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians started to settle in New York City and salsa music continued to adapt, along with more and more bands forming. Elements of salsa music also began to appear in the music of more mainstream American artists as well.

As salsa began garnering more attention as a musical style, Celia Cruz became synonymous with the genre.

Dubbed the Queen of Salsa, Cruz released over 60 salsa albums during her almost 50-year career.

Cruz’s infectious personality and strong vocals endeared her to fans in the U.S. and all around the world.

And a lot of her salsa hits are still played in salsa clubs around the world.

Cruz’s lucky break came in Cuba when the lead singer of the Sonora Matancera left the group.

She made a name with Sonora, even meeting her husband, Pedro Knight, who was a trumpet player with the group. She appeared in films, recorded music and performed across Latin America with the band, but was forbidden to return to Cuba once Fidel Castro took control. Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 1961 and worked with record labels in the U.S. to start making her mark, and in the 1970s, her fame started taking off after “Quimbará” appeared on the Celia y Johnny album in 1974.

Cruz’s career spanned decades, with hits including “Cucula”, “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” and the classic that is played everywhere from bodas to quinceañeras, “La Vida Es Un Carnaval.”

As for the actual style of salsa dancing, that too started to ride a wave of popularity. Besides the Cuban style of salsa, there is the Afro-Latino style (popular in Caribbean countries), Cali-style of salsa danced in Colombia, LA style, and New York style. The Afro-Latino style has some African instruments accompanying shimmies, leg work, body isolations acrobatics and lifts.

Cali-style is fast, like rapido fast. The footwork includes quick steps and skipped motions.

Cali-style salsa began in the 1930s when musicians started experimenting with American styles of music like jazz, mambo, konga, guaguanco.

LA style is danced in a line and the forward-backward step is a #majorkey for this dance.

It is clearly a very different take on the global phenomenon of salsa.

New York style is danced in a “flat figure 8” and is danced on the second beat. Also, if you are trying to keep up by being the “follower,” know that in New York style, the follower is the one that takes the first step.

If you want to go out and try dance moves for yourself, hit up La Descarga in Los Angeles, Ball & Chain in Miami and Guantanamera or Club Cache in NYC.


READ: This Isn’t Your Mama’s Cumbia: The Eclectic History Of Latin America’s Classic Music Genre

Do you like dancing salsa? What’s your favorite song to dance to? Let us know in the comments and share this post with your friends if you learned something new!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Latinas Talk About Their Fave Dance Craze

Culture

Latinas Talk About Their Fave Dance Craze

Lawrence Manning

There’s no denying the fact that dance has a pretty firm place in the hearts of just about every Latin American culture. Across our countries and cultures, and thanks to native and Afro roots, Latin Americans know how to toe step and grind better than the rest of them. From salsa and bachata to danzón and merengue dance has permeated our lives making parties, ceremonies, and even sad occasions some of the most memorable and colorful.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we turned to Latinas to ask about their favorite dances from their cultures and how it has made their life better.

We posed the question “Latin America consists of many different cultural dances. What can you say about the ones from your país? We will be featuring your answers on one of our editorial pieces.⁠”

Check out the answers below!

“CUMBIA! And Joe Arroyo so beautiful said, ‘del Indio tiene la fuerza, y el Negro la fortaleza, que le imprime el movimiento.’”- lauraarendonn


“Ritmos africanos combinados con tambores pre-colombinos y la flambuya y elegancia de los gitanos y corte española. Mi herencia cultural es un sabroso pozole.”- mercedesmelugutierrez

“Chamamé, vanera… – Southern Brazil. Super important to the gaucho culture that southern Brazil shares with argentina and uruguay.”- its.lilas.world

“El baile de los viejitos, Michoacán, México.”- angelyly_



“Punta!! Like ‘Sopa de Caracol.’”- laura_gamez27

“Samba — originated in Brazil from men and women ( mostly from West African region) that were enslaved by Portugal — and brought to Brazil.”- la_licorne_en_velours_

“BOMBA!!! A style of dance in Puerto Rico heavily influenced by our African roots.”-xosamanthaotero


“Festejo… “- jesthefania

“Danza.”- karifornialove

“Cueca from Chile.”- calisunchine



“Huapango Arribeño- San Luis Potosí, Mexico.”-hijxsdetonatiuh



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‘Vintage Latinas’ Is Hyping Up WOC Entertainers Often Forgotten By Media

Fierce

‘Vintage Latinas’ Is Hyping Up WOC Entertainers Often Forgotten By Media

Amid a life-threatening pandemic, political upheaval and a dawning economic crisis, the future can feel frighteningly uncertain. We’ve all been coping in our own ways: from practicing meditation to trying out new recipes to starting creative projects. For me, joy has come in the form of history. Learning about women, particularly Latinas, who entertained audiences on the silver screen or at cabarets, fought for their countries and communities, and created beauty and fashion trends has brought me bliss at a time when I couldn’t even imagine happiness as a possibility. Realizing how healing the stories of our foremothers have been for me, I decided to create Vintage Latinas, an Instagram account dedicated to the Latina and Latin American women and femmes of yesterday.

Through the online community, I post daily photos and videos of women from the 1900s up until the early 2000s. I accompany each image with a lengthy caption that either introduces followers to former stars they’ve never heard of or shares little-known facts and stories about popular icons. Highlighting women and femmes across Latin America, the Spanish Caribbean and the U.S., the page is sprinkled with popular faces like Celia Cruz, Rita Moreno, Frida Kahlo and Bianca Jagger as well as radiant figures who aren’t as celebrated in popular media today like María Montez, Rosa Luna, Maribel Arrieta and Ajita Wilson. My goal is to commemorate the beauty, style, talent, brilliance and power of these women. To do so, I spotlight everyone from actresses, singers, dancers, models and showgirls to artists, designers, beauty queens, party czars, activists and trendsetters. 

It’s not surprising to me that at a time when I have limited control over the unpredictable future I decided to turn my attention to the past. A lover of history, I often find refuge in the narratives of people from yesterday who fought against powerful people, systems and countries to create change for their communities. This was no different. After losing my job in March and being locked up in quarantine for the months that followed, my mental and spiritual health took hard blows. While addressing the issues I was experiencing and developing a wellness routine, I decided to delve into literature about Julia de Burgos, Lolita Lebrón, Blanca Canales, Iris Morales and Denise Oliver-Velez — some of the Puerto Rican nationalists and revolutionaries I hold dear to my heart.

But unlike my experiences in the past, while rereading these works I began imagining the periods in which these women lived — the early- and mid-twentieth century — outside the political and social battles they were fighting.

Immediately, I found myself researching artists and actresses my heroines might have listened to and admired, expanding my interest in these eras beyond struggle and protests.

Soon, guarachas and boleros from artists like Myrta Silva, Carmen Delia Dipini, Lucecita Benitez and Toña la Negra were booming from my speakers more than my favorite reggaetoneros. I was spending my weekends happy that I was forced to stay home because that gave me the chance to search and watch Old Hollywood classics. Obsessed with the makeup and style of the women I was watching, I started repurposing the clothes in my closet to look like outfits inspired by some of my ‘60s and ‘70s fashion inspirations, like Lola Falana, Raquel Welch and Tina Aumont.

I was balancing news of a scary future with the stories and aesthetics of erstwhile powerful Latinas who resisted, lived and loved during similarly turbulent times.

When I started Vintage Latinas a month ago, I simply wanted to create a space where I could honor all the women who were positively influencing my life. For me, it was a hobby, something fun and joyful to do between freelance writing gigs and trying to land a full-time job amid a pandemic. But within days, the page grew into something more. Very quickly, people began following Vintage Latinas, commenting on the posts and sharing the content with their audiences. They even encouraged others to follow the page and called it their favorite account on Instagram. I knew that the dynamic personalities and enduring influence of these sensational women were as healing — or at least as captivating — to others as they were to me. By week one, the page went from a personal hobby to a creative project and online community where people from all over the world are remembering and discovering our Latina and Latin American heroines. 

As I embark on Vintage Latinas’ second month, I have several exciting plans I will begin executing. In addition to my daily posts about historic stars, I’ll be utilizing original and user-generated content to create a browsing experience I hope will excite followers. I’ll be creating activities, like trivia-style quizzes, polls and “Finish the Lyrics” games, featuring vintage images of the everyday matriarchs of the community and conducting interviews through Instagram Live with historians and modern-day Latinas who dress in vintage and pinup, among several other undertakings.

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Puerto Rican singer and politician Ruth Fernández is considered one of the most powerful women and barrier-breakers in Puerto Rican history. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1919, Fernández began singing publicly as a teenager, performing at age 14 on local radio stations for 50 cents a day. Heard by Mingo, a famous bandleader, she was invited to join the group in 1940, becoming the first woman to sing in a Puerto Rican orchestra. Performing in nightclubs, dances and casinos, Fernández became a star on the archipelago. However, celebrity didn't save her from experiencing anti-blackness. In 1944 when her band was contracted to perform at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel for a benefit concert for the American Red Cross, she was told she had to enter the building through the kitchen door because of the color of her skin. But on the day of the show, Fernández ignored the racist protocol and entered through the main entrance. When asked years later about that night, she responded: "Me llamaron negra. ¿Negra? ¿Y qué?" From then on, she began referring to herself as "La Negra de Ponce." In 1972, Fernández was elected to Puerto Rico's Senate, representing the district of Ponce as a member of the Partido Popular Democrático de Puerto Rico until 1980. As a legislator, she sought reforms and better working conditions for artists and also considered the needs of Puerto Ricans living in the contiguous U.S. In her honor, a tenement in the Bronx — the Ruth Fernández Apartments — is named after her. Fernández has received awards from several countries in Latin America, while many cities in the U.S. — including Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles — have official "Ruth Fernández Days." She passed away in 2012 of a septic shock and pneumonia at the age of 92. Here she performs "Soy la que soy" in the 1960s. #ruthfernandez #puertorican #1960s #latinasdeayer #vintagelatina #vintage #vintagestyle #vintagefashion #vintagebeauty #retrostyle #blackbeauty #blackvintage

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The stories of our foremothers, who thrived or continued luchando despite racist systems, colonialism and state-instituted violence, are inspiring and must be preserved. Through Vintage Latinas, I aim to ensure their vibrant lives and contributions to culture and social justice aren’t forgotten. Instead, I want our barrier-breaking predecessors to be celebrated, and I hope you’ll join me in this digital rave that is equal parts history, culture, glam and community. 

Follow Vintage Latinas on Instagram.

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