Johnny Pacheco–the trailblazing musician, record executive and bandleader–passed away on Monday. He was 85.
In his life, Johnny Pacheco was known as the “Godfather of Salsa” due both popularizing the term as well as co-founding Fania Records, which came to be known as the Motown of Salsa music.
Yes, he was known for being a brilliant artist in his own right (Pacheco played the flute and the saxophone along with countless other instruments), but he was most famous for his role as star-maker.
Fania Records was famous for it supergroup, the Fania Allstars, that had a revolving lineup of talented musicians like Tito Puente, Héctor Lavoe, and of course, Celia Cruz.
Pacheco’s continuous collaborations with Celia Cruz is one of his greatest legacies. He first teamed up with Cruz in 1974, for their successful album Celia & Johnny–which certified Gold. Together, Pacheco and Cruz released over 10 albums.
You could say that music ran in Johnny Pacheco’s blood. Born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic in 1935, the Pachecos were a musical family. Johnny’s father, Rafael Azarías Pacheco, was a successful clarinetist and big band leader.
When Johnny was 11, his family left the Dominican Republic and fled to the U.S. to escape the dictatorial regime of Rafael Trujillo. The Pachecos relocated to the Bronx, where Johnny’s love for Afro-Cuban music like charanga and pachanga truly blossomed.
After studying percussion at Julliard, Pacheco began to focus all of his attention on a new exciting genre that was sweeping New York City: salsa. Salsa was named such because it reminded listeners of sauce–it was spicy.
Pacheco co-founded Fania Records with his business partner, a laywer named Jerry Masucci. It was through Fania that Pacheco discovered numerous Latin artists and helped solidify salsa as a genre that was here to stay–forever.
Later in his life, Pacheco received innumerable awards and honors for his cultural contributions. Not only was he a 9-time Grammy nominee with 10 gold records, but he was awarded the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
On Monday, Fania records released a statement that recognized Pacheco as “more than a musician, bandleader, writer, arranger and producer” but as “a visionary”. “His music will live on eternally,” they wrote. “And we are forever grateful to have been a part of his wonderful journey.”
He is survived by his wife, Maria “Cuqui” Elena Pacheco, and his four children, Norma, Joanne, Elis and Phillip
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_
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.
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.