One of my earliest memories is of my mother blasting Olga Tañon’s CD Siente El Amor, while she would clean the whole house, cook and do laundry. I would sit and watch her as she would sway from side to side and back and forth encouraging me to join her. That is when I danced for the first time and learned the basic merengue and salsa steps. Come on mama! Shake your hips is what my mother would say as she demonstrated what she meant. Ever since those days, I have clear memories of me dancing in my room to whatever music I had, but I must say that nothing compares to the Olga songs that have been engrained into my soul.
As I grew older, the Latin music and my love for it didn’t fade. Family get togethers in upstate New York were always dominated by Elvis Crespo, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, and, of course, Olga Tañon. It didn’t matter if we were outside sweating on the deck on the 4th of July or if we were in the basement on Christmas Eve. Wherever there was a party, our Puerto Rican rhythm was there.
Even at American events I was able to feed my obsession. Middle school and high school dances began giving some much appreciated playtime to Salsa, Bachata, and the growing reggaeton genre, keeping my cravings for tropical rhythms under control. My relaxed Spanish classes allowed for cultural days where I could show off my skills and, during my junior year, myself and three others were able to perform a merengue piece at our dance concert.
Obviously, I was ecstatic. I was happy to remain true to my roots. I hadn’t forgotten where my love for dance began. I hadn’t neglected the fact that I am Boricua. Even during my first year of college, I managed to nourish my Latin dancing affair through the weekly Hispanic and Latino Student Union dance lessons. Sure, I was advanced for the beginner’s class, but I didn’t care. I wanted to dance and I was around people who shared my excitement, so as far as I was concerned I was content. I figured I could use the extra practice and being used to help demonstrate moves was just an added bonus for me. I was enjoying myself and I loved it, but life kicked in pretty soon.
Rides became harder to find, while school and work began to consume my entire schedule. By second semester, I stopped attending the dance lessons and lost most of my touch with my island life away from Puerto Rico. For about a year, I was only able to attend two or three lessons and a few special HLSU events. Besides that I only had a couple of family parties to keep me relaxed, but that wasn’t enough. I was going through major withdrawal and I needed something to keep me going.
In December of 2011, one of the high schools that I work at hosted a holiday party. The playlist was strictly Latin music. The Bachata, Salsa, and Merengue vibrated through my ears, awakening the Boricua who had been subdued for so long. Besides dancing, I remember smiling and laughing so hard that my cheeks were sore and there was a bond created between myself, my co-workers, and my students that is priceless. More importantly, I felt good and I was happy. I finally realized that I needed to dance. I couldn’t deprive myself of it anymore, so what did I do?
Last night, I went out dancing with a few close friends. I’ll admit I was a bit rusty, but either way it was nice to be back. I now feel like I regained a special part of me that was missing. I can’t let it go and I have to let it grow. I know my life is going to be crazy busy in the upcoming months, but I can’t keep myself from what I enjoy. Dancing, friends, family, writing! They all make me happy and above everything else I have to do what makes me happy.