Salsa Fest in Las Cruces features salsa bands, salsa tasting, and a costumed Chihuahua contest. I skipped the salsa tasting because I knew I’d over-stuff myself with chips. I laughed at all the dressed-up critters and agreed with their choice of winner, Shayla, the Life Guard Dog.
Mostly I enjoyed the fiery live salsa music and set aside my cane for one dance with my daughter.
Salsa music, or more accurately Latin music, has played an important role in my life. At age 14, I spent Easter vacation with some girlfriends (chaperoned by a mom) on Catalina Island, 26 miles off the coast of Southern California. That’s where I became mesmerized by the song, “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” played twice daily by a Mexican trio greeting tourists as they disembarked from the SS Catalina, also known as the Great White Steamer.
Four years later, when a handsome stranger, Harold, asked me to dance at a UCLA social event, I accepted but was disinterested until he asked, “Do you like Latin Music?” We left UCLA and he took me to a small club in Santa Monica to dance to the syncopated Cuban music of René Touzet, at the start of his successful musical career.
Shared love of this music lasted throughout our almost 56 years of marriage. We even won a rhumba dance contest aboard a cruise ship one year. Passion for Latin music persisted through Harold’s death and beyond. Before he died, he agreed when I asked, “Would you like me to play the Buena Vista Social Club music as guests enter the funeral chapel?” One year later, at his memorial service, my son brought his contrabass; I passed out song sheets and rhythm instruments to close friends and family, and we sang one of Harold’s favorite songs, “Guantanamera.”
Even though, he has been gone for over six years, I frequently listen to salsa CDs that evoke wonderful memories of our dancing together through life. I often dance alone in the kitchen.
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who loves Latin Music.