LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 9

LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 9

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV, Tuesday February 9, 2016

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La Lupe

La Lupe was born in Santiago de Cuba in on December 23, 1939.  An electric, frenetic amazing entertainer and singer, she made a name for herself throughout the world coming from a poor town in Cuba to the stages of New York.  This excerpt from her appearance on the Dick Cavett show is unforgettable.

La Lupe was born in the barrio of San Pedrito in Santiago. Her father worked at the local Bacardi distillery and a he of course had a profound influence on Lupe’s early life. In 1954 she participated on a radio program which invited fans to sing imitations of their favorite stars. Lupe skipped school to go sing a bolero of Olga Guillot’s, called Miénteme (Lie to me), and won the competition. The family moved to Havana in 1955, where she was enrolled at the University of Havanna to become a teacher. She admired Celia Cruz and like her, she was planning to be a teacher before starting to sing.

Lupe married Eulogio “Yoyo” Reyes, in 1958 and formed a musical trio Los Tropiccuba with her husband  and another female singer.  Los Tropiccuba broke up in 1960, along with the marriage. She began to perform her own act at a small club in La Habana, La Red (The Net), which had a clientele of distinguished foreigners. She got devoted fans at La Red, the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Marlon Brando. She then released her first album, Con el Diablo en el cuerpo (With the Devil in my body) in 1960, for RCA Victor. Her first television appearance on Puerto Rican television caused an uproar because of her “wild” energy and seemingly sexualized performance, that shocked some viewers.

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Lupe was exiled to México where she asked Celia Cruz to help her get work.   Celia recommended her to Mongo Santamaría in New York. Once she arrived in New York City, Lupe had a standing gig at a cabaret called La Barraca.   She started recording again, making more than 10 records in five years. She also was married and divorced for a second time, to salsa musician Willie García, with whom she had a daughter.

Lupe’s had an amazing vocal range, mastering a full plate of latin music styles – son montuno, bolero, boogaloo, Dominican merengue, plus Puerto Rican bomba and plena. It was her recordings which brought Tite Curet Alonso into prominence as a composer of tough-minded boleros in the salsa style. For a good part of the 1960s she was the most acclaimed Latin singer in New York City due to her partnership with Tito Puente. She did a wide variety of cover versions in either Spanish or accented English, including “Yesterday”, “Dominique” by The Singing Nun, “Twist & Shout”, “Unchained Melody”, “Fever” and “America” from West Side Story. FRED WEINBERG, who was her favorite audio engineer, also produced several of her albums. Weinberg nick named Lupe “A Hurricane” in the studio because of her intensity and enthusiasm.

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Her performances became increasingly decadent. There were rumours of drug addiction and that her force of nature personality made her real life “a real earthquake” according to close friends. She ended some of her performances having  be treated with an oxygen mask. Although she may have been poorly managed by her label Fania Records in particular, she managed and produced herself in mid-career, after parting ways with Tito Puente.  Unfortunately her ephemeral career went downhill, the explosion of the salsa and the arrival of Celia Cruz to New York, were the determining factors of the rapid decline of her career.

A devout follower of Santería, she continued to practice her religion putting at risk the fortune and fame she had acquired through her short career. Her record label, Fania Records, ended her contract in the late 1970s, perhaps simply because of her falling record sales. She retired in 1980, and found herself destitute by the early 1980s. In 1984 she injured her spine while trying to hang a curtain in her humble home; she initially used a wheelchair, then later a cane. An electrical fire made her homeless. After being healed at an evangelical Christian Crusade, La Lupe abandoned her Santería roots and became a born-again Christian. In 1991, she gave a concert at La Sinagoga in New York, singing Christian songs.

She died of a heart attack at just 52 years of age.  She was survived by her second husband William García, son René Camaño (from her first marriage) and her daughter Rainbow García (from her second marriage). She is buried in Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

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LaVidaEnBlack History Month Day 19

LaVidaEnBlack History Month Day 19

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

Graciás Professor Evo Darwin Peña for your insights, your abundant intellect and all this very interesting information!

MimiTVA Posting from the DMV, Friday, February 19, 2016

Ganga Zumba was the leader of an entire country  of escaped Africans in Alagoas, Brazil known as Quilombo de Palamares.  ( see post from day 18 for info on the Quilombo) The fight for freedom in Brazil and all throughout the Americas began as soon as Africans began arriving in Brazil these Freedom Fighters represented an African resistance movement.  The movement was diverse and strong  taking on many forms, free settlements known as Quilombos, attempts from slave groups to overthrow the government in their Brazilian town or state.

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Zumba escaped bondage on a sugar plantation and proceeded to live his destiny as heir to the kingdom of Palmares and received the title Ganga Zumba. Although some Portuguese documents give him the name Ganga Zumba, and this name is still widely used today.  The most important of the documents translates the name as “Great Lord.” However, a letter written to him by the governor of Pernambuco in 1678 and now found in the Archives of the University of Coimbra, calls him “Ganazumba,” which is a better translation of “Great Lord” (in Kimbundu) and through this evidence we find this was his name.

Ganga was the son of princess Aqualtune; daughter of a King of Kongo. She led a battalion at the Battle of Mbwila. The Portuguese won the battle eventually killing 5,000 men and captured the King, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles. The entire nobility were then stolen from their kingdom, put on ships and sold as slaves in the Americas. It is highly likely that Ganga was among the nobles.  Ganga Zumba, his brother Zona and his sister Sabina (mother of Zumbi dos Palmares his nephew and successor) were made slaves at the plantation of Santa Rita.   They lived as slaves in the Portuguese Captaincy of Pernambuco in what is now northeast Brazil; a Portuguese province at that time a controlled by the Dutch Brazil and finally from there they escaped to Palmares.

quilombo or mocambo was a refuge of runaway slaves who were forcibly brought to Brazil mainly from Angola that escaped their bondage and fled into the interior of Brazil to the mountainous region of Pernambuco. As their numbers increased, they formed maroon settlements, called mocambos.

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Gradually as many as ten separate mocambos had formed and ultimately coalesced into a confederation called the Quilombo of Palmares, or Angola Janga, under the king, Ganga Zumba or Ganazumba, who may have been elected by the leaders of the constituent mocambos. Ganga Zumba, ruled the biggest villages, Cerro dos Macacos, presided the mocambo’s chief council and was the King of Palmares. The nine other settlements were headed by brothers, sons, or nephews of Gunga Zumba. Zumbi was chief of one community and his brother, Andalaquituche, headed another.

By the 1670s, Ganga Zumba had a palace, three wives, guards, ministers, and devoted subjects at his royal compound called MacacoMacaco comes from the name of an animal (monkey) that was killed on the site. The compound consisted of 1,500 houses which housed his family, guards, and officials, all of which were considered royalty. He was given the respect of a Monarch and the honor of a Lord.(Kent)

In 1678 Zumba accepted a peace treaty offered by the Portuguese Governor of Pernambuco, which required that the Palmarinos relocate to Cucaú Valley. The treaty was challenged by Zumbi, one of Ganga Zumba’s nephews, who led a revolt against him. In the confusion that followed, Ganga Zumba was poisoned, mostly likely by one of his own relatives for entering into a treaty with the Portuguese. And many of his followers who had moved to the Cucaú Valley were re-enslaved by the Portuguese. Resistance to the Portuguese then continued under Zumbi.

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The Brazilian film Ganga Zumba was made in 1963 but was not released until 1972 because there was a military coup in Brazil in 1964, and films about revolutions, even those taking place in the 17th century, were considered politically dangerous. The film is based on João Felício dos Santo’s novel, and focuses on a black slave who ends up in Palmares. The film is about black liberation and keeps a black racial perspective. (Stam)

Ganga-Zumba, the Palmares chief during the latter part of this period, attempted to negotiate an agreement with the Portuguese where the quilombo would no longer accept fugitive slaves or fight the Portuguese in exchange for permanent recognition of their land and freedom for those born in Palmares.  However, Zumbi, the settlement’s military leader, chose resistance to the Portuguese. The Portuguese never accepted Ganga-Zumbi’s proposal and continued to attack the quilombo. Finally, in 1694, Palmares was conquered and destroyed by a military force under the command of Domingos Jorge Velho. Zumbi was killed one year later in 1695.

Palmares was a multifaceted quasi-state which lasted for most of the 17th Century, resisting attack by two European powers. Challenging both Dutch and Portuguese sovereignty in Brazil, it was a symbol of resistance to colonialism and of the possibility of multicultural coexistence.

– See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/gah/palmares-ca-1605-1694#sthash.WNeQThDC.dpuf and finally the most violent, armed insurrection.

LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 4

LaVidaEnBlackHistory Month Day 4

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and from where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai… Gracias Profe. Evo!

Posting from the DMV, Thursday February 4, 2016

Cheo Feliciano’s smooth distinctive voice was loved and revered by salsa fans throughout the world.  Unfortunately in 2014, Feliciano passed away in a car accident losing control of his car and hitting a light pole.  But Feliciano’s brushes with death were not uncommon and his is a story to be remembered and admired.

Feliciano (birth name: José Luis Feliciano Vega) born in Ponce Puerto Rico.  His childhood nickname, “Cheo” came from his family, a colloquial version of José. And the name stuck plus he was not to be confused with the other Jose Feliciano who was of no relation.  At a young age Cheo was influenced by the boleros of the Trio Los Panchos. When Cheo was just eight years old he started his own group named “El Combo Las Latas”.  Their musical instruments were made out of cans because that’s all they could afford at the time. And as a young teenager in Ponce, he went on to study percussion.

Feliciano and his family moved to Nueva York to the heart of Spanish Harlem.  Once in New York, he auditioned and got the gig as a percussionist in the “Ciro Rimac’s Review” band.  After that famed Puerto Rican crooner, Tito Rodriguez offered Feliciano a spot in his big band that played at the Palladium Ballroom.   In 1955, Rodríguez found out that Joe Cuba was in need of a singer for his sextet and he knew what a talented singer Cheo was; so he recommended Cuba that he try out for the position. Feliciano became a vocalist for the Joe Cuba Sextet one of the most popular bands at the time. Feliciano was the rare baritone of salsa singers, and his deep voice and quick humor in improvisation made him un favorite dentro del public Latino.

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On October 5, 1957, was Feliciano’s professional debut  as a vocalist with the Joe Cuba Sextet, singing “Perfidia”. He sang with Joe Cuba for 10 years. In 1967, he joined the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra singing for them for two years. Sadly at the same time he developed a drug habit at just 21 years old. Cheo quickly fell into a heroin addiction which threatened his life and professional career. Feliciano decided to quit “cold turkey” and eventually joined Puerto Rico’s rehabilitation center, Hoagies CREA.  Feliciano credits Tite Curet Alonso, the author of most of his hits and best friend, with pushing him through  rehabilitation. As a result, Feliciano was a vehement anti-drug spokesperson, who volunteered to assist in the rehabilitation of fellow salsa artists who fell prey to drug addiction.

In 1972, Feliciano came back to music with the album Cheo, his first solo recording. The album, which featured compositions by Tite Curet, broke all sales records in the Latino music market. The album was loaded with hits like “Anacaona” and “Mi Triste Problema”

During the 1970s, Feliciano recorded fifteen albums for Fania Records and had hits with “Amada Mia” and “Juan Albañil”. He also recorded one of his first albums of Boleros – La Voz Sensual de Cheo. Recorded in Argentina and directed by a famed composer Jorge Calandrelli Cheo’s star rose to new levels. And Feliciano became a part of the first salsa opera by Fania pianist “El Judio Maravilloso”, Larry Harlow, entitled Hommy.

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In 1982, Feliciano began his own record label – “Coche Records”. In 1984, he was honored by artists like Ruben Blades and Joe Cuba in a concert entitled A Tribute to Cheo Feliciano. The next year, he became the first tropical singer to perform at the Amira de la Rosa Theater in Barranquilla, Colombia. In 1987, he played Roberto Clemente’s father in the musical Clemente. Feliciano also became a hit in Spain, and was a regular in the Tenerife Carnival. 

In 1990, Feliciano recorded another album of Boleros, titled Los Feelings de Cheo. He also traveled all over Europe, Japan, Africa, and South America. In Venezuela, he had a reunion with Eddie Palmieri. In 1995, Feliciano won a Platinum Record Award for La Combinación Perfecta.

In 2000, Feliciano recorded Una Voz, Mil Recuerdos as a tribute to various Puerto Rican singers. The album was listed among the 20 outstanding recordings of the year by the National Foundation of the Popular Culture of Puerto Rico. In 2002, he recorded Cheo en la Intimidad. In 2012, Feliciano and Ruben Blades released a collaboration album titled Eba Say Aja where both artists performed each other’s previously recorded songs. In June 2013, Feliciano confirmed that he was suffering from liver cancer and was already undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Doctors discovered the illness when they were treating him for a dislocated shoulder.  In 2014, Feliciano celebrated being “cancer-free”.

 

A memorial service in honor of Feliciano was held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan on April 20, 2014. The service was attended by thousands and several artists paid their respects to Feliciano with songs plus kept guard by Feliciano’s coffin. Artists and groups like Danny Rivera, José Nogueras, Fania All-Stars, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Rubén Blades, Víctor Manuelle, Andy Montañez, Tito Nieves, and others were present.  The next day, his body was taken to the city of Ponce, where he was born. A public service was held at the Ponce Convention Center, led by Governor Alejandro García Padilla and Mayor María “Mayita” Meléndez. After that, a private ceremony was held for the family and close friends inside La Piedad Cemetery. Although the public was not allowed entrance at first, the gates were opened once the family finished their memorial.  Feliciano became part of Sergio George’s group called Salsa Giants whom he was touring with when he died.  Feliciano traveled and sang across the globe until his last day.

LaVidaEnBlack History Month 

LaVidaEnBlack History Month 

It’s important to know who we are, from whom and where we were formed… by telling the stories ourselves, we see an example of how to live, how to inspire and how to honor our ancestors, Aguanile, Mai, Mai…

Posting from the DMV, February 1, 2016

MimiTVA commits to post about different Afro-Latinos throughout Black History Month and beyond.  I’ll start out with my personal favorite … El Negro Primero, the Venezuelan soldier, Pedro Camejo!

In Venezuela, Simon Bolivar known as the liberator of South America realized the vital role Black men played in the colonies quest for freedom from the Spanish Crown. One of Bolivar’s fiercest soldiers was El Negro Primero, Pedro Camejo. Born a slave, Camejo’s nickname was a testament to his bravery for Pedro was always the first to enter the battlefield.

 Frightening the enemies with his vicious spear, Cameo rose to the rank of Lieutenant.

After fighting valiantly in the Battalla de Carabobo, Camejo was mortally wounded and before taking his last breath he uttered this unforgettable phrase to say goodbye to his trusted leader, General Josè Antonio Pàez, “Mi General vengo a decirle adiòs porque estoy muerto” (My General, I came to say goodbye because I am 
dead.)
Camejo has a municipality named for him as well as a statue in Caracas, the only such statue of a black man in all of Venezuela.  He fought for freedom and died a brave and unforgettable death.

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La Reina de Azùcar y los Afro-Latinos

La Reina de Azùcar y los Afro-Latinos

Ay Celia… I celebrate her this September – October in my La Vida En Hispanic Heritage Month posts and I would be remiss to not celebrate La Reina, So here ya go! 
As a constant source of inspiration you never fail to impress, Celia you still reign supreme in a world where you were meant to be just a this or a that.  But it was your destiny to touch hearts it was your purpose to make your people proud, that those who looked like feel as though they to could be respected and revered by their grace, talent, beauty.  

  
As the ONLY Afro-Latina with her very own expansive exhibit displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC, you had weaved yourself into the very fabric of this country, unlike any other Afro-Latina in the world.  The exhibit was complete with costumes designed by you and your music it was such an amazing thing to see and enjoy. 
 A Grammy nominee, ten times over, Celia sang only in Spanish because as she used to claim her “English was not very good looking.”    

She received a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement award, a National Medal of the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami. A street in Miami was also renamed  in her honor. 

  

Her trademark orange, red, and white polka dot dress (an original Celia design) and her personally designed shoes have been placed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute of Technology. According to the European Jazz Network, Celia “commands her realm with a down-to-earth dignity unmistakably vibrant in her wide smile and striking pose.”

   

Celia was a big star in Cuba before she came to the US.  She replaced the Puerto Rican singer Myrta Silva in the famed Cuban Orchestra, La Sonora Matancera in 1950 much to the chagrin of the white aristocracy in Cuba.  This singular move would propell the orchestra and Celia to international stardom. She became one of the first Afro-Latina women to lead an orchestra and Sonora Matancera took Cuban music around the world with Celia Cruz as “La Guarachera Cubana.”

  

I will never forget the way I felt driving down Constitution Ave, when I saw this mega building sized poster of Celia emblazoned with her battle cry to sing  Azùcar! in DC.   Our national museum of American History had this beautiful icon covering the front of their building it was a win.  And I remember thinking ..wow Celia, you were

A Cruz Original
 
It was amazing to see An entire exhibit devoted to our queen, our music, the ancestors were so very pleased.  Couldnt you feel it in her voice? I can, to this day, still hear her singing in my heart,  felt her spirit in my soul, “La Vida Es Un Carnival”
La Vida Es Un Carnival Live  

I was filled with an inexplicable level of pride at who Celia was and what Celia Cruz means to me and people who look like me.  She is irreplaceable our Queen, La Reina! It was confirming to see that Celia Cruz a naturalized citizen, of these United States was still honored and revered with her own exhibit. She was a treasure. 

 

   I have my favorite songs of Celia’s I love “Usted Abuso” with its lovely arrangements and of course “La Negra Tiene Timbao” my anthem because I am Ese Negrita que esta caminando… 

But the song that just breaks my heart in its mastery of lyrics is a cover En Español of I Will Survive.  Recorded just months before she succumbed to brain cancer. Her voice rich but strained emmitted the wonderful Adios of this legendary singer. 

“Yo Vivire, en el alma de mi gente, en el cuero del tambor, en las manos del congero, en los pies del bailador, yo vivire, ahi estar, mientras pase una comparsa, con mi rumba cantare, sere siempre lo que fui con mi azucar para ti, yo vivire, yo vivire…” 

(Translation) “I will survive, in the soul of my people, in the skin of our drum, in the hands of the drummer, in the feet of the dancer, I will survive, and there it is, while my song is playing, with my rumba I will sing, always being alive with my azucar for you I will survive… I will survive” 

Below every latin vocalist from Gloria Estefan to Jose Feliciano and Marc Anthony come on stage with Celia to sing one last song with her. A truly proper goodbye.   I am always rendered to tears each time I see it. 

An All Star Tribute To Living Legend Celia Cruz

I Still cant listen to any of her music without breaking out in dance either… So this post is in gratitude… Thank you God, Mil Gracias a Dios por la Vida En Black of La Reina, Celia Cruz! 

Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar, Dancing En Clave

#BlackHistoryIsGlobal

Today’s La Vida En Black History Month message hails from Bayamòn Puerto Rico… A Boricua who influenced ballroom dance so much that his signature moves are now Latin dance competition standards, Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar was the original Mambo King.apollo1 Crowned in 1952 as the “greatest Mambo dancer ever” by Tito Puente and Life Magazine, Cuban Pete launched a nationwide Mambo Craze with his Afro-Cuban dance style that was all the rage.

This story is one of triumph and tragedy and Pedro “Cuban Pete”Aguilar was always its star. A showman from the start; he emulated Bill Robinson, tap dancing to the music of El Manisero when he was just a toddler of three. Pedro was a natural born dancer.   Wrenched from his mother’s side as a five year old, Pedro & his siblings were mandated to an orphanage for the rest of their childhood.  As a young man in the 1950’s he catapulted to international fame on the dance floor of New York’s Palladium Ballroom. Pedro’s dancing mesmerized the world with his originality, grace and instinct sense of rhythm. Dancing made him the popular one. Dancing gave him freedom. Dancing brought him love.

Coming out of an institutionalized childhood at 18, with a serious axe to grind; Pedro tried his hand at boxing. Beaten viciously in a match; famed singer, Miguelito Valdes told Pedro he should be dancing.   Aguilar took his advice and entered a contest, winning a thousand dollars his first time out. He was so proud! He had never seen that kind of money in his life! From that day on, Pedro never stopped dancing.

Cuban Pete & Millie Donay
Life Magazine Photo originally read “Sambo Does Mambo”

The original king of the Mambo; Cuban Pete created steps that are standards in today’s Latin dance competitions. Machito, Tito Puente & Tito Rodriguez, played rhythms specifically arranged with Pete’s dancing in mind. He set the Palladium dance floor on fire with his moves, becoming the root of the national 50’s mambo craze.  And in 1951, Pete broke the color line in on stage by dancing with his Italian wife, Millie Donay to the very sensuous “Love For Sale”.

In 1954 the couple broke the color line nationally, appearing in a spread for Life magazine about the Mambo.  The dance team of Cuban Pete & Millie created magic, enchanting audiences clear across the country.   Their impeccable style is still revered in the dance community. Cuban Pete, honored in several museums, received numerous awards and accolades for his contributions to Latin dance, its culture and history.

In 1991 Pete was contracted by the movie producers of “The Mambo Kings.” He was the image consultant to Antonio Banderas & Armand Assante; entrenching them both, with the 1950’s Palladium attitude. He choreographed dance scenes and consulted on set designs; bringing authenticity to the film.

Pete with clave from Pasos Latinos
Pete appears in MimiTVA’s doc “Pasos Latinos; A Mambo-mentary”

In 2000, Aguilar, with then dance partner, Barbara Craddock, was choreographic consultant to the Miami City Ballet’s innovative “Mambo No 2 a.m.,” under the direction of Edward Villela.

Pete has danced before Presidents Eisenhower & Johnson, Prime Minister Ben Gurion and given a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. Yet no one was more in awe of his fame than the legendary dancer himself.

Cuban Pete
Pete at Smithsonian Latin Jazz Exhibit

A humble soul, a tender giant, Pete was unaware of the genius he emitted on the dance floor.  His is the story of a great American dream, Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar was an icon symbolizing the clave-based Afro-Latin Dance, exactly like Tito Puente is an icon symbolizing the Music.  Cuban Pete was a hero in which we can all take pride, for his steps, his accomplishments…his life “en clave.”