‘We Were The Pioneers, Opening This Club’: Afro-Latin Music’s Forays Into The Midwest

Since 1996, Club Viva in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood has been the spot for locals to get their international music fix. It’s been a home to dance enthusiasts and partygoers alike, who attend themed nights for Latin music and reggae.

This music of the Caribbean and Latin America draws heavily on African roots. The layers of Latino identity reflect Latin America’s long, oppressive colonial history, when indigenous Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians intermixed. 

More African slaves were sent to Spanish and Portuguese colonies — particularly those in the Caribbean — than to North America. Their music infused the culture around them, providing the building blocks for styles such as salsa, rumba, merengue and bachata, as well as serving as a major influence on jazz and pop.

But music isn’t just a pastime — it can also be political. A song that illustrates that is “La Rebelión” by Joe Arroyo, an Afro-Colombian musician. It sounds danceable, but there’s a serious message with lyrics about slavery and the discrimination still affecting North and South America today.

Read the full article on St. Louis Public Radio.

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