When the Spirits Dance Mambo / Edition 1by Marta Moreno Vega
Pub. Date: 11/16/2004
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
When rock and roll was transforming American culture in the 1950s and ’60s, East Harlem pulsed with the sounds of mambo and merengue. Instead of Elvis and the Beatles, Marta Moreno Vega grew up worshipping Celia Cruz, Mario Bauza, and Arsenio Rodriguez. Their music could be heard on every radio in El Barrio and from the main stage at the legendary Palladium, where every weekend working-class kids dressed in their sharpest suits and highest heels and became mambo kings and queens. Spanish Harlem was a vibrant and dynamic world, but it was also a place of constant change, where the traditions of Puerto Rican parents clashed with their children’s American ideals.
A precocious little girl with wildly curly hair, Marta was the baby of the family and the favorite of her elderly abuela, who lived in the apartment down the hall. Abuela Luisa was the spiritual center of the family, an espiritista who smoked cigars and honored the Afro-Caribbean deities who had always protected their family. But it was Marta’s brother, Chachito, who taught her the latest dance steps and called her from the pay phone at the Palladium at night so she could listen, huddled beneath the bedcovers, to the seductive rhythms of Tito Puente and his orchestra.
In this luminous and lively memoir, Marta Moreno Vega calls forth the spirit of Puerto Rican New York and the music, mysticism, and traditions of a remarkable and quintessentially American childhood.
“Viva Marta Moreno Vega! With honesty, humor, and love, she relives her coming-of-age in Spanish Harlem—the highs and the lows—eloquently documenting how deeply rooted West African cultural traditions are in her rich Puerto Rican heritage. Marta Vega’s memoir makes me want to mambo.” —Susan Taylor, editorial director of Essence and author of Lessons in Living
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Excellent, addicting read! This book brought back fond memories, laughter and tears of life and after life of growing up in El Barrio and being acculturated and accepted with the rest of society.
What can I say? I honestly love the way this author writes. Her writing emanates feelings of hope, and of enlightenment. This book gives you inspiration and offers very insightful information. This is a definite keeper in my library and will be used as a conversation piece within my religious family. This is a must have!
Reading this book really took me back into my own childhood. As a puerto rican from N.Y. , I could totally relate to the story. The author really goes into details, and captures your imagination. I felt like I was there in the botanica with Cotito and her abuela, I could smell the incense and florida water. The relationship that she had with her grandmother really reminds me of my own. I also loved the Music and the dancing- some of which my Mom loved and shared and passed down to me. Read it, you will love it!
After reading the first page, I was completely hooked. This is the kind of book that is so descriptive, the writer makes you feel like you are really there. It also bought me back to the stories my parents told me about when they were growing up back in the day when they first arrived from Puerto Rico.