Salsa was born in 1928 when Ignacio Piñeria, a
popular song writer, used the phrase, “Echale Salsita!”, which
literally translates to “spice it up.” A number of dances sprang
from this, and salsa took on the meaning of “Latin dancing”. It
was very popular around the world, and the many dances sprang from the
Latin world with a kind fierce pride. When you see marquees
advertising salsa, they are really advertising Latin dancing including
Cha-cha, Merengue, Cumbia, Bachata, Mambo, Rumba, and etc. The form of
what we know as salsa today came from Cuban influence of one
particular branch of Latin dancing.
In 1962, when the Beatles came out with their song,
“Love Me Do”, rock and roll took off and Latin dancing fell out of
favor. By the early 1970s, Fania Records, producer of Latin music,
needed to promote their artists and music that were primarily of Cuban
flavor and of a rapid Mambo beat. They needed a name to apply to the
music that would be easily recognized, and they chose the name, “Salsa”.
This was extremely popular in the United States, with the epicenter
being in the Cuban neighborhoods of Miami called “Little Havana”.
Although Cuban music was the basis for what we call
Salsa today, it is not the only influence. Other influences since then
have been Puerto Rica and Columbia. The salsa dance is also referred
to as “Street Mambo”, taken from the fiery hot dancing of the
mixed onetime upper, middle, and lower class Cubans in the Little
Havana neighborhoods of Miami.
(Some historical material from “Let’s Dance”,
1998, by Paul Bottomer.)