The roots of most of today’s Latin music and dance are Afro-Cuban. In the 1930s, Spanish-Cuban Xavier Cugat popularized Latin music at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Machito and his arranger Mario Bauza are the fathers of Latin Jazz in the 1940s. Celia Cruz with Sonora Matancera helped popularize Cuban music across Latin America before becoming a global star in New York. The Mambo Craze that swept our country in 1948 started at the Palladium Ballroom. What we now call Salsa is actually Cuban music popularized by Latin musicians in New York’s Puerto Rican community.
The Harlem/Havana Festival in August celebrates the mix of our cultures.
Cuban Broadway Theatre
Cuba has a good education system. It produces great musicians and dancers. On Your Feet! is Cuban Broadway that tells the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan. Repertorio Español occasionally produces Cuban Off-Broadway theatre in Spanish.
Cuban-American Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra keep winning Latin Grammys. Jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera lives in metro New York. Elio Villafranca is one of the top Cuban Jazz composers. Yosvany Terry is a popular saxophonist. Pedrito Martínez and Román Díaz are some of the top traditional Cuban musicians in New York City. Cucu Diamantes is a Cuban cabaret singer and actress.
Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center and Lehman Center present Cuban big bands. You can dance to Cuban music at Subrosa, Zinc Bar and Gonzalez y Gonzalez in Greenwich Village.
Ballet Hispanico is led by Cuban-American Eduardo Vilaro. The Joyce Theater in Chelsea is connected with the Cuban dance community. Alvin Ailey Extension offers Afro-Cuban Folkloric dance lessons.
Minimalist Carmen Herrera is the most prominent Cuban artist working in New York City today. She is represented by Lisson Gallery. Cuban-American José Parlá painted murals at One World Trade Center, BAM, and Barclays Center. Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery represents him. Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips regularly auction Cuban artists. Wilfredo Lam is the most popular. David Zwirner Gallery, Alexander Gray Associates, and Sean Kelly Gallery represent Cuban artists. Throckmorton Fine Art represents Cuban photographers. There is a statue of Cuban poet and national hero José Martí in Central Park.
The Havana Film Festival New York in April showcases Cuban movies.
Cuban fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez has a New York studio. You can buy his clothes at Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys.
The top Cuban restaurants are Victor’s Cafe in Midtown, Amor Cubano in East Harlem, Cuba in Greenwich Village, and Coppelia in Chelsea.
Yoenis Cespedes is a star Mets outfielder.