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Fans push to rename street for ‘Father of Salsa Music’ Arsenio Rodriguez

May 10, 2012

Contributed by Ingrid Jackson

By Tanyanika Samuels / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Arsenio Rodriguez playing a “tres” (Cuban folk guitar) via


If some of his die-hard fans get their way, the “Father of Salsa Music” may soon have a street named in his honor.
In the late 1930s, legendary musician Arsenio Rodriguez fused traditional Cuban music with African congas, trumpets and piano to create Son Montuno, which evolved into modern salsa music.

“He was black, blind and an immigrant. But he broke through all of that and left behind such a legacy,” said musician Aurora Flores. Flores is among a contingent of supporters pushing to rename the intersection of Intervale Ave. and Dawson St. in Longwood (New York) after Rodriguez. The group planned to petition Bronx Community Board 2 Wednesday night.
“That intersection was the center of his universe,” said Jose Rafael Mendez, a community historian. “He lived in that area. And all the clubs he played, like the Hunts Point Palace, were practically a stone’s throw away.”

Rodriguez, who was of Congolese descent, was born in Cuba in 1911. A childhood accident left him blind but never hampered his musical talent. He became the master of a Cuban guitar called “tres” and was dubbed “El Ciego Maravilloso” (The Marvelous Blind One).
Rodriguez emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1950s after enjoying great success in Cuba. He died on Dec. 31, 1970 in Los Angeles, having penned more than 200 songs.

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Last fall, some fans raised $2,000 for a grave memorial for Rodriguez at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale. The street renaming is the next fitting tribute, supporters said. “Arsenio Rodriguez is more than deserving of a street named in his honor especially in the Bronx which boasts itself as the ‘Borough of Salsa,’” said Flores, bandleader of Zon del Barrio.
“There’s not a park, not a cultural center or a street in the Bronx to honor his memory,” added Mendez. “We’d like to rectify that.”

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