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Orlando Marín playing playing at Memorial Day Stickball Event in the Bronx
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The South Bronx Latin Music Project
A Place Matters Project of City Lore and the Municipal Art Society
In the mid-Iate 1940s the Longwood/Hunts Point area of the South Bronx became "a hotbed of Latin music." Hundreds of Latino musicians grew up in or moved to this area from East Harlem or directly from Puerto Rico and Cuba. Musicians remember that "the music was in the air, it was everywhere." It was the mambo era, and percussionists, vocalists and horn players practiced in apartments and hometown social clubs, on rooftops and street corners; and they joined or form.ed their ow.n big b~n~s and con juntos. Many of these musicians, such as Tito Puente, Charlie and Eddie Palmieri, Orlando Marín, Johnny Pacheco, Manny Oquendo, and Ray Barretto, were the creative bridge through which Afro-Cuban rhythms and styles such as son, danzón, cha-cha-cha and mambo were transformed into the distinct New York Latin music sound that was later labeled Salsa in the late 1960s.

Dance halls, social clubs and theaters-such as the Hunts Point Palace, Club Tropicoro, Longwood Casino, and Teatro Presidente-f1ourished in the Longwood/Hunts Point area, perhaps because three subway lines made stops in the area. People came from allover the City to listen and dance to some of the greatest narries in Latin music such as Tito Rodriguez,Tito Puente, Machito and Arsenio Rodriguez, some of whom lived in the area. A few of the great venues in the neighborhood sti11 exist, usually as something other than what they were, but most of the sItes that embody this history have vanished under the wrecking bailor have been transformed into unrecognizable edifices.

The history of South Bronx performance venues during this period has not been systematically documented. The South Bronx Latin Music Project will document the rich and impressive heritage of the musicians and the venues, capturing and celebrating the spirit and dynamism of the era, and will present a variety of public programs to make this story accessible to all New Yorkers. This work will Include:

  • Photographic and historical research;
  • Interviews with musicians who lived and played in the area;
  • A concert of the "old timers" from the neighborhood; ~
  • Community conversations, panels and workshops;
  • An annotated Latin music map which identifies the significant sites, and literally places this rich cultural heritage on the map of New York.
The South Bronx Latin Music Project is a collaboration with The Point Community Development Corporation and the PAX Theater Community, which are spearheading a cultural and economic revitalization of the area. It is also part of Place Matters, a project of City Lore and the Municipal Art Society which identifies, documents, celebrates, and protects those places that tell the history and anchor the traditions of New York's diverse communities.

The Project is interested in talking to people who would like to share their memories, photographs and memorabilia of the era. Contact Elena Martinez at City Lore, 212/529-1955, 72 East First Street, NY, NY 10003.

The South Bronx Latin Music Project is made possible with support from the New York Foundation. Place Matters is supported by the Booth Ferris Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, and The New York Community Trust. Home | What's New | Sitemap | About Us | Contact us
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