Dominican Republic Merengue
Allegedly dating back to the 1850s, Merengue, the official music and dance of Latin American and Caribbean nation, the Dominican Republic, remains an extremely popular source of entertainment in modern-day island life. Considerably different to when it first arrived on tropical shores more than 150 years ago, Merengueis now a partner dancewhich, in addition to a variety of other instruments, is accompanied most prominently today by the big-band-like sounds of the saxophone. Thanks to its easy-to-learn, improvisational and fun movements, the dance style continues to appeal to people of all ages and abilities both on the Caribbean island of its believed origins and in the United States where it arrived in the early 1900s.
- Although the precise origin of Merengue has never been unanimously agreed, historians claim that the dance form either derives from the one-foot dragging of chained slaves or from a Dominican community who, during one of the island’s numerous revolutions, dancedin a limping-style out of sympathy for a local wounded hero.
- Held annually in late July or early August in Santo Domingo, the island’s capital, the Festival del Merengueis a week-long event solely dedicated to Merengue dance and musical performances and serves to celebrate this central part of Dominican Republic’s creative culture.
Although the historical origin of Merengue music and dance may be uncertain, its nationalistic importance during the Trujillo era (1930-1961) is well-recorded. A keen Merengue dancer himself,
the powerful Dominican leader, Rafael Trujillo, endeavored to promote Merengue as a national symbol and it is thanks to his influential affiliation with the art form that Merengue is still so widely enjoyed in the Dominican Republic today.