Students learn Salsa’s history

Joslyn McCall, Staff Writer

Students and faculty swayed their hips to the rhythm of the salsa beat at the annual
Hispanic Heritage Month Program on Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. in the Lowrimore Auditorium (CEMC).
The program was held in conjunction with the National Hispanic Heritage Month and
sponsored by the Office of Multicultural and International Affairs (MIA) and the Multicultural
Advisory Board (MAB).
The program featured Jose Obando, former executive director of the Salsa Museum in
Spanish Harlem, as the guest speaker. Obando established Lubona Corporation, an education
consultancy which serves several consultancies including the Department of Musical Instruments
of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The school of Julliard, the Cathedral of St. Patrick, the
Grace Church School, the Horace Mann School, the Apollo Theater, the U.S. Naval Academy,
Drew University’s Theological School and many other institutions.
“The 350+ Year Evolution of Salsa” was the theme presentation of the evening that
incorporated the historical value of salsa in the Hispanic culture, cultural influences in salsa
dancing and some common misconceptions about salsa dancing.
The program began with a welcome from Assistant Dean of Students Dr. Daphne
Carter-McCants. Shakila Reid, multicultural advisory board member, introduced Obando as “the
man of salsa.”
Obando confessed to the audience that he is a habitual salsa dancer and his weekly
hobbies include dancing six days a week.
Obando explained he is from Ecuador and was surrounded by a musical family. Salsa
music was implemented in his life at an early age, but the passion for salsa didn’t ignite until
1963 when his father took  the then 11-year-old Obando to a music block party.
“Salsa is so upbeat and energizing because when you’re broke, you have to party to
forget your troubles and that is what the Nuyoricans did and the ones before them,” Obando said.
During the celebration, Obando integrated musical instruments. Near the end, Obando
asked the audience to learn a seven-count step of salsa dancing.
According to Obando, Salsa originated in Spanish Harlem and is credited to a group
known as Nuyoricans, Puerto Ricans in Spanish Harlem, who made it a worldwide phenomenon.
English, Afro-Caribbean and Cuban cultures had an influence on Salsa dance, but the history of
Salsa traces back to England and France with a country dance called Contra-Daze. The French
sailed to the Caribbean island Haiti and took this style of dancing with them.
African slaves began to duplicate this English dance but with influence of African Drum
beats and Spanish troubadour. Obando explained in salsa dancing, the dancer always drags their
feet because African slaves were shackled at the ankles and were not able to move about freely.
The salsa movement then traveled to the Cuban culture on farms of Cuba. Since Cuba is
an agricultural country, they employed farming utensils in the salsa instruments such as the cow
bell. From there, the salsa style dance moved to the streets of New York.
“It is important to explain my heritage as I saw it through the Hispanic culture,” Obando
said. “The presentation was an interdisplinary expiation of salsa. I try to embody a lot of subjects
in my presentation. My goal is to cover a variety of learning concepts.”
Spanish Professor Sara Harding attended the program in hopes of gaining a new
appreciation for salsa.
“I really enjoyed Obando’s presentation,” Harding said. “He was the prime example of
making education fun. Francis Marion students are fortunate to have such quality faculty
members that will bring people down like Obando to speak to them. That is one of the benefits of
being a college student and being involved in on-campus activities.”