New Yorkers Use Classic Salsa to Fight Gentrification

New York's salsa scene, still going strong in Spanish Harlem, valiantly beats back the McCondo purge

If you really want to experience this city for what it was at the time, you'd be a fool to miss the opportunity of taking part in one of the last true cultural mainstays here: the forthcoming Puerto Rican Day Parade, which is celebrating its 51st year. The crux of what makes the concrete jungles (especially as it gets warmer) of Spanish Harlem come alive jumps off and steadily crescendos during the weekends leading up to the main event, which happens this year on Sunday, at 11 a.m.; thousands of revelers party and bullshit on the crowded sidelines as folk and salsa dancers, Puerto Rican celebrities, politicians, and pretty cool floats make their way up Fifth Avenue from 44th to 86th streets. The block parties that happen before and after the parade sometimes feature impromptu sets of conga and batá drummers breaking out into a myriad of Yoruba incantations mixed in with rumba and guaguanco—yes, we call-and-respond here in the Latin 'hood, too. And the folks here—whether local or just passing through—become inebriated with the laid-back vibe that encourages living life in the moment, and to the fullest.

Willie Colón, ripe for rediscovery
Emusica Records, from the Fania Archives
Willie Colón, ripe for rediscovery
Héctor Lavoe
Emusica Records, from the Fania Archives
Héctor Lavoe

So now that it's getting hot outside, and Fania may very well serve as this summer's soundtrack, maybe—just maybe—there still is hope for those of us who crave a familiar taste of old New York.

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