Group Seeks to Open Salsa Museum in the Bronx

While many globally know that The Bronx is the birthplace of hip hop, another music genre was nurtured on the streets and inside the many dancehalls that once dotted the South Bronx: Salsa

Now a group wants to firmly cement the roots of salsa in The Bronx with an International Museum of Salsa (ISM) that would celebrate the international music genre right here in our borough.

Members of the International Salsa Museum at a press conference announcing their plans to bring a Salsa museum to The Bronx/Image via ISM Instagram

The non-profit group is looking to gather support to open up at the massive Kingsbridge Armory which after many years of broken promises, continues to sit unused and underutlilized.

Plans for turning it into a massive ice skating center have fallen flat and have gone nowhere with years of false starts and many criticized ice skating as not being something reflective of what the community wanted.

Now a salsa museum makes a bit more sense given The Bronx’s center seat in the world of Salsa and as the city’s most Latin borough and as the International Salsa Museum’s website says, “All roads of Salsa lead to The Bronx”.

Meanwhile the Norwood News reports that the developers behind the Kingsbridge National Ice Center are still working to convert the historic armory into one of the world’s biggest ice skating centers and if negotiations continue on track with the city and state, they will have shovel to the ground by the end of year.

It’s unclear if the ISM is seeking to use the 50,000 square foot space set aside at the armory for community use or is seeking another space within the massive building for their proposed museum but they hope to break ground in 2024 with an opening some time in 2025.

The Bronx Music Heritage Center writes of the genre:

At the same time that the Bronx was changing, so was the music scene. The Palladium closed in 1966, signaling the end of an era: in the Bronx, boxer Carlos Ortiz’s Club Tropicoro closed, along with the borough’s famed Tropicana. While mambo was losing its venues, the late 1960s saw the rise of Latin bugalú, which was popular with young Latinos. Bugalú, a playful fusion of Latin, jazz and R&B musical genres with English and Spanish lyrics, was an interplay between Black and Latino cultures, as they lived side by side in neighborhoods throughout the City. Some of its major contributors came from the Bronx, including Pete Rodríguez (“I Like It Like That”) and Hector Rivera (“At the Party”).

The borough’s social ills only worsened. In 1976, the worst year for the fires, the South Bronx reported over 35,000 fires of all kinds. Engine 82, Ladder 21 on Intervale Avenue became the busiest firehouse in the nation. Outside of war, there is very little precedent for the kind of destruction that took place in the neighborhoods that became known as the South Bronx. Latin music once again went through a transition. What became known as “salsa”– the same Afro-Cuban based music as mambo but with urban, grittier instrumentation and arrangements–reflected the tensions and problems of living in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. The leaders in this genre were the Fania record label, which was founded by a former lawyer and cop from Brooklyn, Jerry Masucchi, and a Dominican musician who grew up in Mott Haven, Johnny Pacheco.

It would be befitting that El Condado de la Salsa also becomes home to a museum honoring this genre that was birthed here.

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