This is a seldom-told story of the rhythms and cultures that merged through dance and shared cultural richness, resulting in the genesis of the music sung, recounted, and danced in the Caribbean. It also explores the languages that emerged alongside this music. The essence of this cultural fusion gave birth to universally recognized genres like guaguancó, fandangos, huapangos, and peteneras. This cultural blend, often referred to as the “Afro-Andalusian Caribbean” by historian Antonio García de León, represents a convergence of three shores, including Veracruz, La Habana, Santiago de Cuba, San Juan de Puerto Rico, Cartagena de Indias, Seville, and Cádiz. It also acknowledges the points of embarkation for the black slave trade on the African coasts, a chapter often erased from history.
During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the commercial exchanges among these three shores led to a mestizo culture that incorporated languages, music, dances, and rhythms from various ethnic groups. Among these influences, the Andalusian Morisco heritage brought by numerous migrants and exiles to the American coasts is often overlooked. As a result of these human and cultural encounters, individuals known as “negros curros,” “guajiros,” or “jarochos” emerged, becoming the creators of sonic imprints such as “guaguancó,” “fandangos,” “huapangos,” and “peteneras.” Within these musical expressions lies the resilient and shared memory of the three shores, a heritage particularly safeguarded by women.
* Antonio Manuel is a professor, writer, musician, and activist.
** Musical performance featuring the musical piece “Huapango” by José Pablo Moncayo