Diasporic Realness Guest Writer’s Month: Yes, Black People Do Dance To ‘Spanish Music’


Diasporic Realness is a Guest Writer’s Month dedicated to US telling our stories!

By: Tamika Burgess of The Essence of Me

It would be weird to go to one of your family gatherings andsee Black people dancing to Spanish music,” someone said to me. “Why?” I asked. “Because…it would just be weird,” he responded.  

This comment was made to me over seven years ago and it’s still at the forefront of my mind. Mostly because the ignorant comment holds true to what many of us already know, which is that people still don’t know or understand that Black people can actually be Latino. But at this point, I feel I have exhausted the topic of Afro-Latinos not being recognized so I’ll leave that alone, for now.


The ‘Spanish music’ that my associate was referring to when he made that comment could actually be anything from Salsa and Merengue to Bachata and Reggaeton, amongst several others. All of which, and more, I grew up listening to in my Panamanian household. 


The under lying common factor in Latin American music is that they are all mixed with sounds from Africa. Because of the Slave Trade with Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are filled with many African influences, and music is not exempt. One major African influence that is still present in today’s Latin American music is the use of the drums. These are the sounds that came from religious ceremonies and the fun that came along with free dancing. 


This style of dance is chronicled in Héctor Lavoe’s “Che Colé.” As a child I still remember the instruments at the beginning of this song blaring out in my house. In this Salsa song Lavoe sings in Spanish about a style of dance known as, La Bomba, which consists of a dancer moving their body to create a connection to the sounds of the drum.


“We’re all going to dance, In the African style…

Ah you, you look like a bomba


Later in the song Lavoe goes on to sing about the Latin American countries where this style of dance is popular and where the dance came from.


“They dance it in Venezuela, They dance it in Panama,

This rhythm is African”


This is just one of the many songs that either credit African culture for its influence in Latin American music and uses African sounds. Another example is Celia Cruz’s, “La Negra Tiene Tumbao.” In this Salsa song Celia Cruz sang, also in Spanish, about the beauty that is a Black woman.


This Black baby that is going on walking,

This Black baby has its own rhythm,” 


Again, here’s another song referencing the rhythm, the movement of a woman’s walk as it relates to the Tumbao. The Tumbao is a rhythm played on the bass; a rhythm that originated in Africa.


I could go on and dissect plenty of other songs that do the same, but I think the point has been made. Africa was and is still a huge influence on Latin America. My Afro-Latino culture is filled with sounds that come directly from Africa. It’s more than just dances and drums, it’s a part of our culture. The way Latinos have that extra bit of sway in our hips when we move, all traces back to The Motherland. 


In essence, it really isn’t a farfetched thing to see Black people dance to ‘Spanish music.’ The music that is prevalent in Latin America comes from the continent where Black people, well all people for that matter, originate from. And since Latino culture is so heavily influenced by African culture, seeing Black people dance to ‘Spanish music’ makes all the sense in the world to me.

Tamika Burgess

Tamika Burgess is a NYC-based writer, blogger, and editor. She’s written for CosmopolitanClutch MagazineFearless Leon, and Write Naked among other publications. To read more of her work visit her blog, The Essence of Me. Find her on Twitter @TameeksB.


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