Although colloquially assumed to refer to a specific type of dance, the Rumba is actually a term used to collectively describe a variety of dances of Afro-Cuban origin. The earliest roots of the Rumba extend back to the 16th century, when slaves brought into Cuba from Africa introduced sexually aggressive dance moves to the local culture. The original Rumba patterns scandalized much of conservative, middle class Cuba, and, eventuall,y the more refined, slower version known as the Son evolved.
The Son made its way to the US in the early 1900s and soon became known as the American Rumba. It wasn’t until the 30s, however, that the Rumba became popular in the mainstream, when the Rumba-influenced song “The Peanut Vendor” became a radio hit and launched the dance into the national consciousness. The 1935 film ‘Rumba,’ starring George Raft and Carole Lombard, etched the dance permanently into American pop culture.