Puerto Rico: the salsa route
With a rhythm that’s captivating outsiders and locals alike and a new fever for learning to dance sweeping the globe, in Puerto Rico, hips are moving seven nights a week.
Puerto Rico is known worldwide as the capital of salsa. Its streets have produced some of the leading examples of this rhythm worldwide; El Gran Combo, La Sonora Ponceña, Tito Puente and India all share this island’s DNA. However, due to the advance of urban music and reggaeton (also incubated on the island), until ten years ago the new generations were iginoring salsa.
It has come back home now, thanks to spaces such as Piso Viejo, one of the stops on La ruta de la salsa, a tour of the establishments people turn to when looking for a great night out dancing or to take a professional class.
The night’s fun begins just before 10pm on Calle Loíza in San Juan’s historical district. Locals and tourists stumble their way across the old pavement, renovated through the efforts of local entrepreneurs and young artists who have turned the area into the newest fashionable district.
Thursdays, Piso Viejo
The door to the establishment at number 197 swings open and the music of Frankie Ruiz “the daddy of salsa” fills the air. His is one of the voices that dominated the airwaves in the golden age of romantic salsa, the 1980s and 1990s. Chords from the classic Tú Me Vuelves Loco have invaded every corner of Piso Viejo, which started out as a tapas bar and has since become a temple to salsa that reaches its climax on Thursday nights.
And Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays
Wednesday is salsa night: choose between El Balcon del Zumbador in the Canta neighbourhood, and El Boricua, in the middle of the university area. In Old San Juan, The Latin Roots gets things moving on Fridays and its neighbour Niuyorican Café was visited by Mick Jagger, who went there to dance after the Stones’ concert on the island in 2006. The salsa session begins on Sunday at Taberna Los Vázquez in the popular Placita de Santurce. There, in the midst of the market surrounded by restaurants, the tavern serves as stage for salsa orchestras playing live from the early afternoon hours until nightfall.
Mondays are for learning
Monday is for beginners. On the stroke of 8pm, the lobby of the Coliseum of Puerto Rico is flooded with hundreds of people coming to take Cambio en Clave salsa lessons led from Rafael Cancel. It’s a surreal picture: 200 people moving from side to side in response to the teacher’s commands.
Beyond the tour
A salsa tour in Puerto Rico wouldn’t be complete without including the south. Just 120km from San Juan is Ponce, a coastal city known as the ‘the stately city’, where authentic gems of salsa history can be found. Héctor Lavoe, who sang hits such as El Cantante and Aguanile, was born in the city. Other Ponce natives include legendary figures of the genre Cheo Feliciano, Quique Lucca, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez and Ismael Quintana. Consequently, the City Council and the government have created a local tour that guides visitors to the Héctor Lavoe Monument, the tombs of Lavoe and Feliciano and the Museum of Puerto Rican Music. To top off the visit, make sure to stop in at the Casa de la Rumba in the Calzada neighbourhood, La Piña del Swing in La Guancha and the legendary Sarabanda in the San Antón neighbourhood.
There are many daytime and nighttime destinations waiting to be enjoyed. With Iberia Plus’ new search engine, you can find out what destinations you can fly to using your Avios.