Esta página no está disponible en español.


If Only Celia Were Here ... Live The Legacy at The World Salsa Congress

By Natalia de Cuba Romero

July 18, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

If you said the music called salsa came from Cuba or Puerto Rico, you’d only be partly right. Salsa, that fiery, sensual music of story-telling lyrics and the hip-slinging, fast-stepping dancing that goes with it is a product of diaspora, that scattering of peoples from their homeland to parts far and wide, for economic, political, persecution or religious reasons generally.

In the case of Cuba and Puerto Rico, many, many immigrants from the diaspora landed in New York. And, it was in New York that these musicians away from home brought son, plena and more of the African-European-West Indian mixed sounds of the Caribbean to the nightclubs where Caribbean Spanish immigrants met in the 60s and 70s. They put it all together and ¡A Túqueti! In-your-face Latin dance music was born. Willie Colón, Hector Lavoe, The Fania All-Stars, Celia Cruz – they all come from these beginnings in the hard scrabble life of a Latino in New York forty years ago.

But today, things have changed. Now everyone’s got Latino fever, thanks in part to the modern contributions of the Estefans, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Marc Anthony and J.Lo as well as the years of dedication of the late Tito Puente and so many others. It makes sense, of course. Who wouldn’t want to be able to move like that to the brass and rhythm of salsa?

So it should be no surprise that salsa has come back to conquer the islands its founders came from. And although it may be surprising to see at first, it has moved far beyond the NYC-Havana-San Juan triangle and is now a worldwide phenomenon.

If you’d like to see the phenomenon of Europeans, Asians and North Americans – all those people we Latins like to say can’t dance – shake and twirl and strut as if they were the best of El Barrio, your time has come.

San Juan – and more specifically the Caribe Hilton -- becomes the navel of the salsa world from July 25-27 with Second Annual Salsa Open – a salsa competition pitting the world’s best dancers against each other and before panels of judges. The fun and salsa continue from July 28-August 3 with the Seventh World Salsa Congress – a week of workshops, kicking live music and blood-boiling performances. Participants come from Chile, China, Cuba, The Philippines, Norway, Slovenia – 48 different countries in total! I’m almost afraid to go – do I really need to be shown that Australians and Japanese can kick my Caribbean butt on the dance floor?

The World Salsa Congress, founded by Puerto Rico-based All Star Entertainment in 1996 started as a way to link salsa aficionados around the globe. It has become such a success over the last seven years that there are World Salsa World Tours.

Just imagine the stops in Bombay, Florence, Los Angeles, Argentina.

And last year the Salsa Open began in order to provide a venue for world championship competition. This year, for the first time, there will be $40,000 in prizes spread over several categories in the Open.

The Open comes first.

Starting with registrations, eliminatory rounds and presentations on Friday July 25th (and a night time show that includes current hotter than hot Latin hiphop songster Tego Calderón), the open continues with competitions – including DJ duel with participants from PR and Spain-- and workshops until the exciting final on Sunday, which will take place at Roberto Clemente Coliseum.

After three days of competition whet the public’s appetite for more, the noncompetitive Congress starts with master classes from some of the world’s best teachers as well as plenty of opportunities to kick up your heels and dance the night away to the very best bands. We’re talking El Gran Combo, Gilberto Santa Rosa, and the Pupy Santiago Orchestra, just to mention a few. More than 1,800 spectators and participants are expected; this sounds to me like one big party and sweaty salsa love-in. Azuuca!

There are more packages available for entrance to the activities, hotel stays and the like than I can name here. But I’ll give you the websites and contact info and you can take it from there. For the Salsa Open Competitions visit or email For the World Congress of Salsa, visit or email The two sites are linked together, so you can navigate both to plan your dream salsa vacation. Or call Magdiel Tirado or Richard Goenaga at 787-274-1601. In Spain, your contact is Silvio González at or or (34) 963-340-280.

Natalia de Cuba Romero is a freelance travel, food and arts writer. Her column, "Sights, Sounds & Tastes of Puerto Rico", appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald. She can be reached at

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback