Before you read this very long mini novel of my perceptions of what it was like in the good old 70's. I just want for anyone reading this, that I am not a writer or a Historian. This is just my perception of what I lived during that glorious era. What I saw. How I interpreted what was happening and how it all have evolved in my memory now.
In the 1930'S, 40'S and 50'S, Cubans in New York, living among many Latinos from Puerto Rico and elsewhere, played their own distinctive styles of Cuban music, influenced most importantly by African American music. Their music included son and guarachas, as well as tango, bolero, rumba, mambo and danzones, with prominent influences from jazz.
I would like to give you a description of the NYC of that time in our history....
Our plane left the beautiful Capital City of Santo Domingo and our beautiful home and neighborhood, This was due to another story I wrote, about what my famiy had to endured during the latest years of the Trujillo's regime. Rafael Leonida Trujillo Molina, That Dominican Dictator, that Vargas Llosa, the peruvian writter, essayist, politician and collegue professor, described as the worse tyrant and oppressor of the late 20th century.
I arrive in this country near the early 60's, right in the middle of all the socials and cultural issues, this country was facing... President Kennedy, has just been assassinated. We found a country in mourning. This was sad to the eyes and mind of a child my age. Never knew anything about segregation, what it meant, how to spelled it Well I found it here. A few months in this country. I added to my list of heroes which were vast. I already mentioned, I came from a musical, intellectual and political familiy.....
So I was reading about the Cuban Revolution. (this was without my parent's knowledge) El che Guevara was my number one idol, I knew , just everything, It was out there for anyone to know, Marx and Lennin with their communist philosophy. Malcom X, Dr. King, Mahatma Gaadhi, was already a very well known figuere. It was one of my father's Idols, along with many other great men and women of that time. So to end this little introduction on my background and where I was mentally when I arrived here. From that very rich culture and my beautiful island.
Coming from that wealth in culture and a good living, straight without any stop, to the South Bronx, and all the old and decaying tenement's buildings. That, my friends, was a real culture shock, for anyone, no matter how old they were.... From my first week of school, I got beaten up, by a group of African American girls, in those days we called them "BLACK" As, you all know we have new names, for just about everything. By the time I was in school for five weeks, the beatings increased. It was the second time in my life, that I discovered what hate and being a victim of ignorance was. I was well groomed, dressed like what I was, an upper class Dominican. spoke a very refined and vast Castellano. I grew up in Catholic schools. In my country, the nuns, in these rich schools for young ladies that I attended. It was their jobs to raised us to be first ladies. So unbeknownst to me, and at such a young and tender age, I came from "Paradaise Island " to the "Belly of the beast"
For the most part even, with all the socials issues, the war ,the crimes. For most young people growing up in those times of social awareness, and above all for us Latinos here in NYC, it was the beginning of a musical revolution that we were not aware was going to make such a worldly impact. A new music that was going to break every frontier and was going to make people equal, just for the love of this music. Never did I fathom, or any of my friends and cousins, that we were to bear witness to what was going to be known as SALSA , and we were to be lifetime's SALSEROS. While other ethnics groups of all races, creed, skin colors and nationalities, would all be united for the love of this music.
These were bittersweet days. ...While we were young and living a carefree life, amid, the poverty and the destruction of our communities due to the drug war. Most of us, Blacks and Latinos, had family members and friends fighting the war in Nam. Many of them not much older than us, were returning home in black boxes, or missing limbs. -This was disheartening, eerie and unreal for anyone that was at that time, not only a minority (It was really us the minority that was sent to the front) it was quite daunting for anyone a little older than 14 years of age. This was actually the age of all young SALSEROS. Even the young Icons of Salsa such as The Palmieri, Orlando Marin, Ray Barreto, Willie Colon, and many others started playing music and forming little musical group at that age.
came the"SALSA", and that for us young Latinos in NYC, it obviously became sort of a cause. It was our revolution. - Our generation of NYC Latinos, the majority of us, we were not into fighting any war, communism, socialism or anything. We were just radical; we were not fanatic, extremist, or militant. -Our main purpose was our easy going attitudes, and fun and games lifestyles. Many of us, didn't work unless it was quite necessary, never went to church nor did we care about saving. School for many was a place to hang out, to meet people, to learn how to dance this new music "SALSA", to demonstrate against the war, and many of the civil right issues of that time. Nevertheless, we actually were not too passionate about anything, until SALSA came to our world.
It was hard to choose to have a career, to try and get an education when all of this was happening in NYC. -I found that even keeping a relationship was difficult. There was really too much happening. -On my part, I can say, I did it all in half in those days, part time school, part time work, part time sleep, part time eating, while it was full time clubbing, swinging and dancing. There was just not time...
As you were able to appreciated, by reading this long recollection of my perception of that time in our musical history, I am not a writer. If you are a writer and while reading this you found all my faults, please feel free to edit this article and you can email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your positive criticism and 'of course any other feedbacks you may have.