How Salsa Music Took Root in New York City

Decades before the twirling, hip-shaking grooves of salsa music exploded into a global phenomenon, it emerged from the glitzy New York mambo clubs in the 1940s and 1950s and made its way to the streets of Spanish Harlem.

New York City in the ’40s and ‘50s was the perfect breeding ground. A new, African-based Cuban music was melding into the city’s vibrant big band jazz scene. And a huge wave of Puerto Ricans moving to New York—nearly 900,000 between the mid-‘40s and mid-‘60s—were, as the decades passed, claiming a new identity in their new home, fueling a fresh, hard-pounding music with their own distinctive voice.

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