Tito Puente, The Biggest Name In Salsa, Hated Calling It That Saying The Term “Salsa” Is For Spaghetti
El Rey de Latin Jazz, Tito Puente, will be honored this year in a three-day-tribute kicking off on his birthday. You wish you could have a three-day birthday celebration. Shoot, Abraham Lincoln only gets one day.
Tito Puente will be honored this year in the Bronx with a three-day retrospective on his 50-year career.
Credit: Platinum Music Group / Youtube
The tribute will be part conference, part musical festival and part panel discussion on the life, and illustrious 50-year career, of the man who notoriously hated the word “salsa” to describe his music, saying salsa is what you put on spaghetti.
In the book “Tito Puente and the Making of Latin Music” by Steven Loza, there’s a large discussion of what to call his music. On the term “salsa” Puente said:
“…Yes, what does it mean? There’s no salsa music. They just put that word to the music that we were all doing all the time, the mambo, the cha-cha, the merengue: they called it “salsa.” Salsa is a condiment of food. You eat salsa. You don’t listen to it. You don’t dance to it, you know? It became a popular word and all American people… “Tito could you play me a salsa?” …Now I’ve joined them. I’m not going to fight it anymore, you know? the mambo, call it whatever you want! … Salsa is actually the condiment that you put on food. Salsa tomate, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce. The Mexicans have been using the word salsa for centuries.”
Immortalized in film, tv and most importantly as a character on “The Simpsons,” Puente made a huge mark in music and pop culture.
Credit: JPeterBane / Reddit / Giphy / The Simpsons / Fox
There’s nothing like seeing your heroes portrayed on your favorite cartoon. Also, he released over 100 albums and won several Grammys awards, among other awards and accolades, no big deal.
When I arrived in L.A. as a tourist in my senior year of college, I did the walk of fame and took a photo with only ONE star.
Credit: Andrew Santiago
Besides the fact that there are only some, but not many Puerto Rican stars on the walk of fame (side-eye), my heart swelled seeing his name among the most famous people in all the world.
Puente is a source of pride for Puerto Ricans and Latinos everywhere, even Oscar the Grouch was feeling him. And he hated everyone.
Once you get to Sesame Street, you live in our hearts forever.
You can check the retrospective starting April 21st at the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in the Bronx.