Pathways Through Salsa

An NYC Mambo, Boogaloo and Salsa Family Tree
An NYC Mambo, Boogaloo and Salsa Family Tree.

Courtesy of Mickey Duzyj.

What about salsa sparks your curiosity?

Whether you're well-versed in the salsa community or new to its world, Pathways Through Salsa invites you to embark on a journey of curiosity by exploring a range of topics that may be both familiar and unfamiliar to you. As you navigate each pathway, you'll encounter trail markers that pose thought-provoking questions, encouraging you to reflect on the connections between these stories and the valuable insights they offer.

The stories within Pathways Through Salsa serve as a source of inspiration, showcasing the remarkable qualities of resilience, persistence, and courage. By engaging with the experiences shared within these narratives, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the richness and diversity of the salsa community. Whether it's tales of overcoming adversity, the pursuit of artistic expression, or the preservation of cultural heritage, these stories offer lessons that resonate on a personal and collective level.

As you traverse these pathways, may you be inspired to embrace the spirit of resilience in your own life, find renewed determination in the face of challenges, and celebrate the power of community. Pathways Through Salsa illuminates the profound impact that individuals and their stories can have, underscoring the importance of recognizing and honoring the diverse narratives that contribute to shared histories.

Marker 1 of 3: How do we approach salsa history?

Approaching salsa history requires a combination of research, listening to oral histories, engaging with community voices, and recognizing the dynamic evolution of salsa as a reflection of social, political, and cultural contexts. Exploring the roots of salsa is crucial, but equally significant is grasping why it holds profound meaning for a multitude of individuals, each with their own unique perspectives and connections.

Group of men musicians pose with instruments in front of a house.
Afro Latin History and Salsa

Read more on why recognizing and honoring the significant contributions and cultural heritage of Afro Latin communities is important.

Acto a Marti gathering at Club Cubano Inter-Americano with Machito playing the maracas
Salsa Is More Than Salsa

How do human interactions and musical categories shape salsa history?

Read Their Stories

  • Full body black and white portrait of Celia Cruz on stage. Cruz wears a dress with a sweetheart neck
    Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa

    Celia Cruz came to represent salsa music for audiences across the world and brought visibility to Black Caribbean expression and history.

  • Black and white screen painting of a 5 by 5 grid of Ismael Rivera's face painted on a red wall.
    Ismael Rivera: El Sonero Mayor

    Meet Ismael Rivera: the first Black singer to appear singing on national television in Puerto Rico and whose music speaks against racism.

More to Explore

Below, you’ll find even more stories about how different cities in the US adopted salsa as their own. You will also read about prominent figures who influenced their city’s particular style.

Click below to reveal stories.

Marker 2 of 3: How has participating in salsa music served to include or exclude participants on the basis of gender?

Participation in salsa music has traditionally excluded women and LGBTQ+ individuals, who often faced limited roles as followers in dancing and representation as musicians. However, there has been a growing movement within the salsa to challenge these norms and foster inclusivity and diverse expressions of gender identity.

A white rooster statue with colorful decorations and “Gay Ocho” written on its side stands upon a bo
LGBTQ Performance in Salsa

LGBTQ performers have challenged the gender dynamics of salsa in several important ways.

Red, gold, and blue sequin dress designed with horizontal, varied stripes and large open sleeves.
Gender Performance in Salsa

Learn how people express their gender identities through salsa.

Read Their Stories

More to Explore

The resources below emphasize the impact that the LGBTQ community and women had on salsa gathering spaces.

Click below to reveal stories.

Marker 3 of 3: How was salsa a part of civil rights movements?

Salsa was important in various civil rights movement as it served as a powerful expression of cultural identity and resistance against systemic oppression. It provided a platform for communities to assert their heritage and contribute to the social and political movements striving for equality and justice.

Six Young Lords members pictured hanging out.
Salsa Music and Social Movements

Salsa music emerged as a powerful tool for cultural expression and resistance against social injustice in different movements.

Ten band members pose in suits. Five are kneeling and five are standing.
Salsa and Migration

Salsa’s global presence begins with the history of people from Cuba and Puerto Rico before they migrated to the United States.

Read Their Stories

More to Explore

Below, you'll find a place where sound was the main focus. People have expressed and shared the meaning of places that were important to them by filling them with sounds.

Click below to reveal stories.

Keep Up the Stamina

What other stories should be told? How do we protect history? Consider applying for an Underrepresented Communities Grant.

Apply here!

The "Oíste? Listening to the Salsa Stories of Afro Latin Music" project was authored by interns, fellows, and scholars with the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education including Elisa Alfonso, Marjorie Justine Antonio, Hermán Luis Chávez, Melissa Hurtado, and Jade Ryerson, and designed by Hermán Luis Chávez and Melissa Hurtado.

Acknowledgements: Alejandro Garcia-Maldonado, Alexandra Tarantino, Alison Russell, Amanda Schramm, Andres Espinoza, Angelita Alvino, Barbara Little, Blanca Stransky, Cynthia Hernandez, Derrick León Washington, Eleanor Mahoney, Elisa Alfonso, Ella Wagner, Frances Aparicio, Herman Luis Chavez, Jade Ryerson, James Barry, James Nyman, Jessica Dauterive, Laura Phillips Alvarez, Marcos Echeverria Ortiz, Marjorie Justine Antonio, Megan Springate, Melissa Hurtado, Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Naomi Torres, Noel Lopez, Paloma Bolasny, Roberta Wendel, Sarah Lane, and Teresa Moyer.

Last updated: August 11, 2023