Origins and Identity

Origins and Identity

Despite of society associating salsa with originating in Puerto Rico, its roots began in Cuba in the 1920’s. Its sounds traveled to places like the Bronx and Spanish Harlem in New York. A term like Nuyorican, which refers to Puerto Ricans born in the diaspora in different boroughs and cities in New York demonstrates the labels society deems on certain individuals and groups. The analysis of Nuyoricans and other people who identify with hyphenated ethnicities in the United States places them as outsiders or are seen as the “other” in society. Being seen and labeled as the other has caused much division and tension between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, due to the constant struggle to be liberated of the imperialist relationship that chains Puerto Rico’s economic, political, and financial status. Among colonialism, slavery, and political corruptness, the U.S. has placed Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens, which forces Puerto Ricans to be in a place of discomfort and confusion about their identity. Hence, the concept of identity is hard to form when Puerto Ricans are seen as foreigners in the eyes of their native country/hometown and from the perspective of having descent from a country different than their native.

Salsa artists/musicians, Hector Lavoe, Marc Anthony, and Willie Colon share some similarities and differences. Differences among those three artists deal with their style, rhythm, and tempo. The main similarity are that they all produced songs that speak of the pain of their people with anthemic lyrics.Peace_rock


Hector Lavoe,  Mi gente expresses the pride that Hector Lavoe has in being Puerto Rican and the pride Latinos/Hispanics should have in their cultures. According to a New York Times article published in July 2, 1993, with the help of “Mr. Colon, he began a series of recordings for the Fania Label label that radicalized Latin music, making it more topical and political than before, turning it away from simple themes of romance.” Lavoe was one of the first few Salsa singers along the side of Willie Colon to radicalize and revolutionize the crude manner in which salsa music was viewed throughout Puerto Rico and the United States. 


Marc Anthony, a Salsa singer born in New York with proud Puerto Rican descent has gained fame, love, and popularity in New York and Puerto Rico. His popularity in New York is evident in his music video for his song Vivir mi Vida. The song Vivir mi Vida expresses the happiness he wants his people to feel in the midst of political corruption and the obstacles they encounter in life. Anthony is often compared to Lavoe in his physical appearance, looks, and musical talents. From fans hailing all the way from the island to the diaspora, Anthony is currently one of the most popular salsa singers as he rose to fame in the late 1990’s and has kept the momentum of his fame until 2016. With its release in 2006, the movie El Cantante provided Anthony with the opportunity to portray the life of the late Salsa singer, Hector Lavoe.

Marc Anthony – El Cantante

Hector Lavoe-El Cantante

According to Juan Flores in Creolite in the Hood, Willie Colon’s album, Asalto Navideno, released in 1971 bridges the gap between Puerto Rican islanders and the diaspora. Colon has upbeat rhythms with sounds of Christmas within each song. There tends to be a huge gap dividing Puerto Ricans born in the island and those born in the diaspora, however  For example, two factors creating such divisions are the lack of using and continuing original cultural practices from Puerto Rico and not speaking Spanish as often or at all if the person is of Puerto Rican descent. Although Colon was of Puerto Rican descent, he was clever in creating titles for his Christmas album and the songs in it. Asalto Navideno was the name of his album, which brought great attention to political and social issues occurring in Puerto Rico and New York during the 1970’s.

Asalto Navideño – Willie Colón & Hector Lavoe