Rhythms of Race

Rhythms of Race: Cuban Musicians and the Making of Latino New York City and Miami, 1940-1960

CHRISTINA D. ABREU
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 322
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469620855_abreu
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  • Book Info
    Rhythms of Race
    Book Description:

    Among the nearly 90,000 Cubans who settled in New York City and Miami in the 1940s and 1950s were numerous musicians and entertainers, black and white, who did more than fill dance halls with the rhythms of the rumba, mambo, and cha cha cha. In her history of music and race in midcentury America, Christina D. Abreu argues that these musicians, through their work in music festivals, nightclubs, social clubs, and television and film productions, played central roles in the development of Cuban, Afro-Cuban, Latino, and Afro-Latino identities and communities. Abreu draws from previously untapped oral histories, cultural materials, and Spanish-language media to uncover the lives and broader social and cultural significance of these vibrant performers.Keeping in view the wider context of the domestic and international entertainment industries, Abreu underscores how the racially diverse musicians in her study were also migrants and laborers. Her focus on the Cuban presence in New York City and Miami before the Cuban Revolution of 1959 offers a much needed critique of the post-1959 bias in Cuban American studies as well as insights into important connections between Cuban migration and other twentieth-century Latino migrations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-2086-2
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-19)

    Almost twenty years after production of new episodes ofI Love Lucyended in 1957, an older, gray-haired but no less upbeat and dynamic Desi Arnaz took to the stage to host the fourteenth episode of the inaugural season ofSaturday Night Live. As he had done countless times throughout his early musical career in the late 1930s and 1940s and onI Love Lucyin the 1950s, the Cuban entertainer had double duties that evening in 1976; he served not only as the show’s host but also as the featured musical act. Backed by band members dressed in oversized...

  5. 1 RACE AND THE ROOTS/ROUTES TRACED BY LATIN MUSICIANS
    (pp. 20-55)

    At first glance, Mario Bauzá and Marco Rizo had many things in common. Both musicians came from wealthy, well-connected families, both had received musical training in some of the best conservatories in Cuba, and both had left their homeland for New York City, determined to make it as professional musicians. Once in the city of their hopes and dreams, both musicians soon began making significant contributions to what was considered Latin music during the 1940s and 1950s: Bauzá as a trumpet player and arranger for Machito y sus Afro-Cubans and Rizo as pianist and arranger for the Desi Arnaz Orchestra...

  6. 2 CUBAN MUSICIANS AND NEW YORK CITY’S CUBAN SOCIAL CLUBS
    (pp. 56-81)

    One evening in September 1941, Machito y sus Afro-Cubans took the stage for a performance at the Audubon Ballroom, located at the edge of Harlem on the corner of 165th Street and Broadway. The popular band had been hired by Victor Alonso, president of the Hispano-American Club. Outside the ballroom, a reporter for theAmsterdam Star-Newsexplained that “two prominent young white women, an African prince of great culture and a young colored girl” sought entry into the “public dance” they had purchased tickets for. It was likely Louise Crane, the daughter of a former governor of Massachusetts and one...

  7. 3 A PLACE FOR NATION IN THE DIASPORA
    (pp. 82-109)

    Afro-Cuban singer Graciela Pérez, a lead vocalist for Machito y sus Afro-Cubans, recalled that the Ateneo Cubano denied Cubans of color entry into club events and charged that the club’s members did not attend the band’s performances. She reasoned that “we have no reason to be grateful to the [white] Cubans.”¹ For the most part, the black and white Cuban social clubs of New York City maintained independent memberships and hosted separate events and activities, a coexistence that racially divided the Cuban American cultural landscape. That El Club Cubano, the Ateneo Cubano, and other Cuban social clubs offered black and...

  8. 4 LA PRENSA’S MUSICAL POPULARITY CONTESTS AND FUND-RAISING FESTIVALS
    (pp. 110-140)

    In 1941,La Prensa, the largest and longest-running Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York City, announced that it would be sponsoring an annual Concurso de Popularidad de Artistas y Orquestas Hispanos de Nueva York, a musical popularity contest that culminated in a Gran Festival Pro Fondo de Caridad, a fund-raising festival that sought to raise money for those most in need in thecolonia hispana. Though the newspaper had organized its first musical popularity contest in 1933, it was not until 1941 that the Concurso de Popularidad and Gran Festival reportedly “sparked such interest among the colonias de habla española”...

  9. 5 REAL AND IMAGINED REPRESENTATIONS OF (AFRO-)CUBANNESS AND LATINNESS
    (pp. 141-183)

    No Cuban entertainer was more well known among North American audiences in the 1950s than Ricky Ricardo, the fictionalized bandleader portrayed by Desi Arnaz on the hit television comedyI Love Lucy. Over 40 million people tuned in to CBS on Monday evenings from 1951 to 1957 to watch the half-hour sitcom that chronicled the daily lives and misadventures of Ricky and Lucy Ricardo and their neighbor-pals, Fred and Ethel Mertz. Drawing distinctions between the real-life Arnaz and the semiautobiographical character he played on television is not always an easy task. Both Ricky and Desi worked at nightclubs in Manhattan,...

  10. 6 CUBANS IN MIAMI’S PAN-AMERICAN PARADISE
    (pp. 184-218)

    Like many real-life Cuban musicians and performers based in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s, the fictional Ricky Ricardo and his band traveled south to Miami during the winter months to perform at one of a growing number of hotels and nightclubs that were popping up along the city’s shoreline. During the sixth season ofI Love Lucy, Ricky and his band travel to Miami for an engagement at the Eden Roc Hotel, a luxurious ocean-front resort on Collins Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets, located next door to the larger and perhaps even more grand Fontainebleau. Just...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 219-226)

    When I first began working on this project, I decided to start by calling a library in Miami. I explained my research ideas to the archivist on the other end of the telephone line and expected her to supply me with an endless list of potential collections, newspapers, and other resources for consultation. Instead, the archivist asserted unequivocally, “Ay, niña, pero aquí no habian Cubanos en esos tiempos!” (“Oh, hon, but there weren’t any Cubans here during those years!”) I had been naïve to think that the very assertion of the presence and significance of Cuban migrants in New York...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 227-268)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-288)
  14. Index
    (pp. 289-304)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)