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,to know, 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.
These were the salsa scene's survivals tools, in order to really be in the "IN CROWD" We were out every single day of the week. Sometimes, we frequented new places because, we had to check them out. Many club owners and promoters would pay us to go there with our group of friends to dance and mingle, after few hours we would head out to our regular places. One important fact, I would like to state here is that, we never paid any admission fee. All the club owners in NYC and NJ were honored to be graced by our presences. We were very great looking, classic Latinas. Where ever we went. We called people's attentions. We were really popular. My girlfriends and cousins were among the best dancers. We were privileged to meet many of the Salsa's forefathers. Some of them called us friends. One them was Nestor Sanchez. He was a great friend. To me the "Albino Maravilloso was one of the greatest salsa's crooners of our times, so was Chivirico Davila, Cheo was another great singer and he sang pretty much everything.
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 exiles 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 mid 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, I found all this new social issues here.
Reading has been one of my hobbies since I learned how to read, 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 about everything, they had out there about him. By the age of 13, I considered myself to be a communist. Oh well, what do one really know at that age? Therefore Marx and Lennin with their communist philosophy were also my heroes. I adored Malcom X, Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi ,along many 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.
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 with 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.
While we were dancing to the music of Joe Quijano and his Pachanga, Pacheco , Jose Fajardo, Puppy Lagarreta, and their charangas. We also dance to early Newyork chachacha sound of Ray Barreto, Pacheco, Mongo Santamaria. The mambo music , from the Mambo Kings, Machito and the Tito's, Jose Curbelo. Pete Rodriguez and his Boogaloo, Joey Pastrana, Joe Cuba with Jimmy and Cheo Dancing to the chachacha , La lupe was a big star. We danced to all the Boleros, of Santito Colon, Vitin Aviles, Pellin Rodriguez, Cortijo and Maelo were big hit in NY and PR, La Sonora poncena , El gran Combo de Puerto Rico. Tito Rodriguez was every young girl's dream. His boleros were what we call in spanish ' CORTAS VENAS" wich means cutting your veins. In additions, all the Afro Cuban's rhythm and Latin Jazz were also the crazed of the time.
We were hearing this new sound in the street by the many groups of young artist coming out of 'EL Barrio and the Boogie down Bronx. While Fania had been on existence since 1964, it was not until 1968, that many of my cousins, friends and myself, started buying music by that label.
While we were enjoying all these Latin music. We were also very much into soul, rock and roll, and funky music. However, what was to be known as "SALSA" for us young Latinos in NYC, it obviously became some sort of a cause. It was our revolution. - Our generation of NYC Latinos, the majority of us, 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.
They died fighting an unknown war with no purpose or a sense of a cause, dying for something that they did not want to fight or die for. - Oh what a waste! What a responsibility for a generation of flower's children! -We preached LOVE not Hate, PEACE no WAR...In spite of living in such a troubled nation, divided by racial issues, we had another problem. Our young men were living in fear of being drafted... - "The draft" was used by the United States government to force young adult men into uniform to fight the raging war on Vietnam. With the growing anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960's , there was a growing general disillusionment with American middle class material progress, with the "keeping up with the Joneses mentality" and the general emptiness of American life.
As alienated kids protested, grew their hair and smoked their pot, they began to reorder their lives and many of them "dropped out" of school and traditional careers to pursue different styles of living. These included more sexual freedom, less work, less ambition, and more being stoned or "high," more meditation and thoughtfulness, more bicycle riding, more walking and more hitch-hiking. These kids and young adults became known as "hippies." Of course, no one quite knew what a "hippie" truly was, so you just smiled when someone asked you if you were a "hippie." Many of the hippies were ostensibly apolitical or nonpolitical.
The Beatles made their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, February 9, 1964.... - In 1959, Berry Gordy -- a one-time assembly line worker at Ford Motor Company, founded a Detroit-based record company called Motown. By 1963, Motown became the most successful black-owned record company in the history of American music. Motown had a stable of vocal groups, songwriters, musicians.
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.