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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15) "celebrates the long and important presence of Hispanic and Latinx Americans in North America".

In this era of extreme vilification of Hispanic and Latinx people (particularly immigrants) it has never been more critical to shine a spotlight not only on the contributions of Hispanics, but to highlight history for better understanding. I have to believe that if more people took the time to increase their historical knowledge, it would hopefully decrease xenophobia and othering.

In terms of music, Latinx & Hispanic musical contributions have always been incorporated into American music as a whole. From jazz to blues to R&B to country to rock n roll, the Latin influence & contribution is inseparable and interwoven throughout, making it a quintessentially American sound. In fact, this has been nicely pointed out in the most recent Ken Burns most docu-series, Country Music.

I don't purport to be an authority on this subject, but I am a proponent of improving human relations via music. If you're someone who'd like to increase your understanding of Hispanic musical contributions in North America, I'd like to suggest some documentaries that are worth checking out. These cover music heard on my radio show and at my dance parties.

Mambo, Cuban Pete and Millie
Interracial dancers Millie Donay & "Cuban Pete" Aguilar (who was actually Puerto Rican) were Mambo stars of NYC's Palladium Ballroom

Latin Music USA -

Swing, Machito, Conga players, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mambo, Integration Through Music, Cha-Cha, Santana

This is doc begins to scratch the surface of the subject. It's a good starting point for further exploration.

Below are the links to this doc split in 4 parts

Ritchie Valens, Chicano R&B
Ritchie Valens

Latin Music USA -

The Chicano Wave

Again, this is just a basic intro and good starting point. Below are the links to this doc split in 4 parts

Solomon Burke, Myrna Smith, Bert Berns, Latin Soul
Solomon Burke, Myrna Smith, Bert Berns

Bang! The Bert Berns Story

This story of one successful Brill Building songwriter turned soul music producer, is a nice illustration of how New York soul producers incorporated Hispanic and Latinx influences into R&B and early soul music.

Joe Cuba, Latin soul
Joe Cuba was one of the first to have a hit in the Latin Boogaloo genre

We Like It Like That

This documentary tells the story of New York Latin Boogaloo and Latin Soul Music of the 1960s.

La Lupe, Tito Puente, Latin Soul
La Lupe & Tito Puente

La Lupe - Queen of Latin Soul

There aren't a lot of widely celebrated women in vintage Latin soul. That's why it's so important to shine the spotlight on The Queen, La Lupe. She was a superstar of Latin music and a consummate entertainer. This documentary is in Spanish with subtitles.


This Harry Belafonte- hosted doc is on the older side, but it does a very good job of laying out how Cuban music became incorporated into various types of American music. Check out the first two parts of the doc if you want to go deeper into the roots of Cuban rhythms.

If you know of other documentaries I should suggest, please send your suggestions.

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