Although salsa was not exclusively interpreted and produced by Nuyoricans, it has been historically performed and developed by them. Salsa has its roots in the Cuban rhythm known as son; however, it combines elements of Afro-Antillean music such as the Puerto Rican bomba and plena. Salsa means sauce in Spanish.20 Although seen as “detrimental, for it homogenizes the complex history of musical forms, genres, and practices encompasses in Afro-Caribbean music”21, the term was coined in the 60’s to describe the ‘spicy’ nature of the music.22 Salsa music represented the peak of the Puerto Rican working class and was rejected by upper classes in the 1960’s.23 “During the 70’s, salsa received an enormous economic and commercial boost from music producers in the United States who recognized the commercial potential and impact of this music and brought it to the public.”24
In the 1980’s, salsa expanded immensely. Latino record labels such as RMM, created by Ralph Mercado, began to produce artists, adding to the ever-growing popularity of Musíca Latina. This was also a decade that birth the careers of many major artists such as Celia Cruz, later dubbed the Queen of Salsa, Marc Anthony, La India, Tito Puente (The King of Salsa), and Domingo Quiñones.
Salsa takes mostly after its’ predecessor La Plena, using the same instrumentation as its base. In addition to a panderetas, guitar, cuarto, guiro, maracas, bongos, and congos, Salsa also includes cowbells, timbales, and a variety of brass instruments. This change “was motivated by the popularity of the big band sound and the mambo in New York among the middle class audiences. Changes in the instrumentation to include winds, trumpets, and saxophones…embodied the shift from a plena conjunto to a dance orchestra with the big band sound.”26 Salsa is a couple’s dance. The music has a 4/4 beat, the dance has an eight count “1-2-3…-5-6-7...”. One the first four counts, the leader steps forward with the left foot, steps back on the right, and brings the left back together on the third count. The partner then counters this move starting on the 5 count.27 There are many variations of salsa, but the basics moves are the same.