Forget about health care reform. Want to hear a really fiery debate? Try asking Latin dance experts about the history of Salsa and how it developed, and you’ll hear as many theories as there are experts in your sample. What is universally accepted, however, is that contemporary Salsa evolved as the offspring from a number of different Latin dances, from the Mambo to the Rumba to the Cha-Cha.
Much of Salsa’s origins can be traced back to the creation of the Rumba and Mambo in Cuba in the 30s and 40s. Those dances grew out of the African slave communities in Cuba, whose ancestors brought their rhythmic instruments and dance moves to the New World in the 16th century. Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians and singers made their way to the American mainland in the 20th century interwar-years and forged indelible alliances with the thriving African-American jazz community. Soon, renowned Latin musicians such as Desi Arnaz, Carmen Miranda, Celia Cruz, and Tito Puente had popularized Latin music and dance and brought them into mainstream America.
Salsa came into full flower in New York in the 60s thanks to Fania Records, an independent label that produced some of the most innovative music of the period. Fania needed a catchy term to attach to its artists’ unique fusion of Latin, Spanish, and African rhythms and styles, and the “Salsa” craze was born.