History and Development of Salsa: A Timeline

A salsa dancer aspiring to be one of the best should always start from the basics of the discipline itself, particularly with its history and development throughout the various parts of the world. Knowing the roots of salsa can help in understanding the aesthetics, forms, skills that comes with it, and the impact it had in the dance and music industry. This just goes to show that even a dancer does not come from a Latin, Puerto Rican, or Cuban ancestry, it does not mean that he or she cannot perfect the art of salsa dancing.

There has been a lot of debate on where the art of salsa really originated from. Many would argue about how its roots are from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and New York, among others. Technically salsa has roots from all three, but Cuba has the most major contributions to its current form today. The addictive Cuban rhythm spread across countries and started different movements for the art of salsa music and dance. Below is a brief timeline of how Salsa started and developed:


1898: American soldiers got a liking for Cuban music.

During their stay in Cuba, the U.S. soldiers heard and listened to Cuban music. Their love for the music influenced their taste when they went back to America.

1900s: Cuban musicians started to air their music recordings and these arrived to North America.

American musicians visited Cuba then started their own Latin jazz when they went back to their place. During this time, Cuban music and the Latin jazz boomed in America’s airwaves.

1920s-1930s: The Prohibition in the United States greatly affected the tourist visits in Cuba.

Because alcohol was legal in Cuba, a lot of Americans visited the place thus increased the influence of Cuban music on the people’s taste. Also, Cuban orchestras were visited by American radios for recording. Some Cuban musicians were invited to America to join the bands there. The mambo started during the 1930s.


1940s: Salsa music was getting more widespread.

Musicians were apparently hired to compose Afro-Caribbean and Flamenco-rooted music for films because of its high demand among the music industry. Cuban musicians and Puerto Ricans majorly influenced the New York music industry. West Africa started to recognize their own music in the famous music craze, because a major population of Cuba came from West Africa.  Also, the conga line dance became famous during this time.

1950s: A huge number of Puerto Ricans migrated to New York thus increasing their influence on the music.

Puerto Rican musicians displayed their utmost talent, passion, and creativity in the Big Apple. The Cubans migrated to Miami instead.

1960s: The term “salsa” was officially coined by the New Yorkers.

A debate within the distinction between salsa and mambo became common. Salsa was molded into something more appropriate for Latin New York.

1970s: Salsa music reached its peak during the decade and branched out into different forms due to the mixture of various Hispanic and Afro-Caribbean influences.

The major dance forms that influenced salsa are the Rhumba, Guaracha, Mambo, Danzon, Son, Cha cha cha, Cumbia, Merengue, and Charanga. Some of the most popular forms of salsa at present are the following: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Casino, Colombian, Rueda de Casino, and Ballroom Salsa.