Una sola casa: Salsa consciente and the poetics of the meta-barrio
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The album Siembra (Fania 1978) by Rubén Blades and Willie Colón marked the arrival of Salsa consciente -- a strain of New York City Salsa inspired by the global youth revolution of 1968 and the cultural nationalism of the Afro-American Black Panthers and Puerto Rican Young Lords, which gave audible form to Latinidad -- the sociopolitical identity of Latinos in the U.S. and beyond. This dissertation analyzes the development of Salsa consciente as a musico-poetic movement that emerged in the mid 1970's and continued as a leading trend at least until 1991. This musical phenomenon expressed the ethnic consciousness of urban immigrants who came to feel that they all lived in una sola casa (one and the same house) or, in the same meta-barrio (urban meta-neighborhood or ghetto), a semiotically constructed abstract meeting space where Latino and Latin Americans interact through the lingua franca of politicized dance music. The style was catalyzed by performers such as Willie Colón, Ray Barretto, Cheo Feliciano, and Eddie Palmieri, following the intellectual lead of composers Rubén Blades and Catalino "Tite" Curet Alonso. The term consciente applied to Salsa evokes the idea of class consciousness in the Marxist sense (1971, cf. Lukacs' History and Class Consciousness) and/or an ethical conscience that rejects consumerist individualism in favor of social solidarity. The artists may have intentionally chosen ambiguity as a means of defying existing political labels. Spread through the media of vinyl records and commercial radio, Salsa consciente was rapidly embraced by communities of various national origins as the socio-musical signature of Latino ethnicity in New York and beyond (cf. Zea, 1986; Padilla 1989; Davila, 2002; Ramirez, 2002; Aparicio, 2003; Caminero-Santangelo, 2007). The genre and its context are documented here through fieldwork combined with textual and sonic analysis of representative tracks, which are linked for this purpose at www.salsaconsciente.wordpress.com.