Salsa, A Brand New Beat For Tango-Loving Buenos Aires

Immigrants from Venezuela, Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America are making their presence felt in the Argentine capital, where more than a dozen salsotecas have opened in the past decade.

But there are a growing number of salsotecas wherever there is a South American diaspora
But there are a growing number of salsotecas wherever there is a South American diaspora
Nahuel Gallotta

BUENOS AIRES — In London it's Elephant and Castle. New York has several, including East Harlem. And in Paris, of course, there's the Latin Quarter. Most of the large cities in the United States, Europe and even Asia have at least one Latino neighborhood.

Interestingly enough, there isn't one as such in Buenos Aires, this most European of Latin American capitals. But there are a growing number of salsotecas, salsa clubs that spring up and thrive wherever there are significant concentrations of Colombians, Peruvians and Venezuelans.

Salsa clubs first emerged in New York in the 1970s, when Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans and immigrants from elsewhere in Latin America began to make their rhythms popular with groups like the Fania All-Stars. As the years went by, salsotecas opened in other U.S. cities, as well as in Europe. And these days, they don't just play salsa music. Club goers also shake it to the rhythms of bachata, reggaeton and merengue.

Salsa is truly taking hold in Buenos Aires — Photo: El Nuevo Dia, Jose L. Cruz Cande/GDA/ZUMA

In Buenos Aires, a city famed for its own music and dance tradition — the tango — about 15 or so salsa clubs have opened in the past decade. Among the first was Caracas Bar (Guatemala 4802), which opened in 2009, before Colombians and Venezuelans had a noticeable presence in the city. In fact, its first customers were mostly Argentines, some of whom had lived in Venezuela and wanted a place to recall old times.

Its Venezuelan manager and bartender, Félix Ovalles, came to Buenos Aires in 2006, and says the drinks he serve — a mix of rum and fresh fruit juices — "heat you up." He misses home. "You come in here and ask for a drink. Hector Lavoe is playing. You hear the waiters talk, and you're back in your country. You never get over being far from home. Salsotecas are places that heal this wound for a bit. You feel like you are on your way home."

You never get over being far from home. Salsatheques are places that heal this wound for a bit. You feel like you are on your way home.

Keep in mind that for these communities, music is much more important than it is for the average Argentine. In their countries, the day starts with music. It is their morning news bulletin. There is music at the office. Taxis are practically little discos. And on Sundays, it's music all day at home, and loud.

"It's another rhythm of living. We live and die with music, it's inside us," says Hernán Reynoso, better known as DJ Luny's. He arrived in 2006 from Santo Domingo, and has worked in about 10 salsa clubs. Today you'll find him at the Dubai Star Lounge in the San Telmo district. Like Caracas Bar, this place also serves Caribbean food. Sensitive to the Argentine passion for football, many such clubs have giant screens and open even earlier on match nights.

Home away from home

Salsa clubs are increasingly fond of live shows. The Peruvian venue Your Club, in central Buenos Aires, has hosted the Puerto Rican singers Tito Nieves and Maelo Ruíz. More and more are coming to play in Buenos Aires, often arriving alone knowing there will be a local band to play for them.

"You have a sense of opening the door and finding people you don't know but who have the same tastes and similar conditions to yours. They too miss their home, music and food. Many come alone. It's like a meeting place for compatriots," says barman Ovalles

León Newton is Cuban. He came to Buenos Aires 20 years ago and began making a living giving salsa classes. Over the years and with a few trips to and from Cuba, he felt the city lacked an exclusive Cuban salsa joint. Tired of listening to just one or two of the best known songs from his country, in 2011 he opened El Toque Cimarrón (Perú 571), which on Fridays becomes Fanía Funché, a musical event and venue catering for Colombians and Venezuelans.

"I knew there was a public that loved Cuban salsa, and I devoted myself just to that," says Newton. "El Toque Cimarrón is a project to revalue Cuban music. We want to give it the heat it has and has lost due to misinformation."

Dancing is the most important thing, by far. Followed by meeting people and seduction.

Like Havana's best salsa clubs, El Toque has live bands playing every night. That's how Cuban salsa emerged, says Newton — "for the people." Argentine customers abound, and the place may have inspired quite a few of the habitués to travel to Cuba. "The atmosphere is like the Argentine tango club. The gentlemen stand up, approach women and invite them to dance," he adds. "Dancing is the most important thing, by far. Followed by meeting people and seduction."

For DJ Luny's, there are two types of places in Buenos Aires: regular clubs that play salsa — and tend to attract Argentines in the their 40s or above who "come to practice" what they are learning in salsa classes; and salsotecas, where people can find "the real essence of salsa."

The majority of the people in salsotecas are foreigners, DJ Luny's explains. But some Argentines go there as well, especially younger people who are drawn to the music or just because they're curious. It's ike a cultural excursion, a way to try new foods and experience something totally different.

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food / travel

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

Inside Poveglia Island's abandoned asylum

Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

Shahr-e Gholghola, City of Screams - Afghanistan

photo of  ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola,

The ruins of Shahr-e Gholghola, the City of Screams, in Afghanistan

Dai He/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

According to locals, ghosts from this ancient royal citadel located in the Valley of Bamyan, 150 miles northwest of Kabul, have been screaming for 800 years. You can hear them from miles away, at twilight, when they relive their massacre.

In the spring 1221, the fortress built by Buddhist Ghorids in the 6th century became the theater of the final battle between Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire, and the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan. It is said that Khan's beloved grandson, Mutakhan, had been killed on his mission to sack Bamyan. To avenge him, the Mongol leader went himself and ordered to kill every living creature in the city, children included.

The ruins today bear the name of Shahr-e Gholghola, meaning City of Screams or City of Sorrows. The archeological site, rich in Afghan history, is open to the public and though its remaining walls stay quiet during the day, locals say that the night brings the echoes of fear and agony. Others claim the place comes back to life eight centuries ago, and one can hear the bustle of the city and people calling each other.

Gettysburg, Civil War battlefield - U.S.

photo of rocks and trees in Gettysburg

View of the battlefields from Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA, USA


Even ghosts non-believers agree there is something eerie about Gettysbury. The city in the state of Pennsylvania is now one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for spirits and paranormal activities sight-seeing; and many visitors report they witness exactly what they came for: sounds of drums and gunshots, spooky encounters and camera malfunctions in one specific spot… just to name a few!

The Battle of Gettysburg, for which President Abraham Lincoln wrote his best known public address, is considered a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union's victory. It lasted three days, from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, but it accounts for the worst casualties of the entire conflict, with 23,000 on the Union side (3,100 men killed) and 28,000 for the Confederates (including 3,900 deaths). Thousands of soldiers were buried on the battlefield in mass graves - without proper rites, legend says - before being relocated to the National Military Park Cemetery for the Unionists.

Since then, legend has it, their restless souls wander, unaware the war has ended. You can find them everywhere, on the battlefield or in the town's preserved Inns and hotels turned into field hospitals back then.

Belchite, Civil War massacre - Spain

photo of sunset of old Belchite

Old Belchite, Spain

Belchite Town Council

Shy lost souls wandering and briefly appearing in front of visitors, unexplainable forces attracting some to specific places of the town, recorded noises of planes, gunshots and bombs, like forever echoes of a drama which left an open wound in Spanish history…

That wound, still unhealed, is the Spanish Civil War; and at its height in 1937, Belchite village, located in the Zaragoza Province in the northeast of Spain, represented a strategic objective of the Republican forces to take over the nearby capital city of Zaragoza.

Instead of being a simple step in their operation, it became the field of an intense battle opposing the loyalist army and that of General Francisco Franco's. Between August 24 and September 6, more than 5,000 people were killed, including half of Belchite's population. The town was left in rubble. As a way to illustrate the Republicans' violence, Franco decided to leave the old town in ruins and build a new Belchite nearby. All the survivors were relocated there, but they had to wait 15 years for it to be complete.

If nothing particular happens in new Belchite, home to around 1,500 residents, the remains of old Belchite offer their share of chilling ghost stories. Some visitors say they felt a presence, someone watching them, sudden change of temperatures and strange sounds. The ruins of the old village have been used as a film set for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen - with the crew reporting the apparition of two women dressed in period costumes - and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. And in October 1986, members of the television program "Cuarta Dimensión" (the 4th dimension) spent a night in Belchite and came back with some spooky recordings of war sounds.

Gur Emir, a conquerer’s mausoleum - Uzbekistan

photo of Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) i

Gur Emir (Tomb of Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Chris Bradley/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

The news echoed through the streets and bazaars of Samarkand: "The Russian expedition will open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. It will be our curse!" It was June 1941, and a small team of Soviet researchers began excavations in the Gur-Emir mausoleum in southeastern Uzbekistan.

The aim was to prove that the remains in the tomb did in fact belong to Tamerlane — the infamous 14th-century conqueror and first ruler of the Timurid dynasty who some historians say massacred 1% of the world's population in 1360.

Still, on June 20, despite protests from local residents and Muslim clergy, Tamerlame's tomb was cracked open — marked with the inscription: "When I Rise From the Dead, The World Shall Tremble."

Only two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with the people of Samarkand linking it to the disturbing of Tamerlane's peace. Amid local protests, the excavation was immediately wrapped up and the remains of the Turkish/Mongol conqueror were sent to Moscow. The turning point in the war came with the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad — only a month after a superstitious Stalin ordered the return of Tamerlane's remains to Samarkand where the former emperor was re-buried with full honors.

Gamla Stan, a royal massacre - Sweden

a photo of The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

The red house of Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden


After Danish King Kristian II successfully invaded Sweden and was anointed King in November 1520, the new ruler called Swedish leaders to join for festivities at the royal palace in Stockholm. At dusk, after three days of wine, beer and spectacles, Danish soldiers carrying lanterns and torches entered the great hall and imprisoned the gathered nobles who were considered potential opponents of the Danish king. In the days that followed, 92 people were swiftly sentenced to death, and either hanged or beheaded on Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Until this day, the Stockholm Bloodbath is considered one of the most brutal events in Scandinavian history, and some people have reported visions of blood flowing across the cobblestoned square in early November. A little over a century later, a red house on the square was rebuilt as a monument for the executed — fitted with 92 white stones for each slain man. Legend has it that should one of the stones be removed, the ghost of the represented will rise from the dead and haunt the streets of Stockholm for all eternity.

Port Arthur, gruesome prison - Australia

a photo of ort Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Port Arthur Prison Settlement, Tasmania, Australia

Flickr/Eli Duke

During its 47-year history as a penal settlement, Port Arthur in southern Tasmania earned a reputation as one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. The institution — known for a brutal slavery system and punishment of the most hardened criminals sent from the motherland— claimed the lives of more than 1,000 inmates until its closure in 1877.

Since then, documented stories have spanned the paranormal gamut: poltergeist prisoners terrorizing visitors, weeping children roaming the port and tourists running into a weeping 'lady in blue' (apparently the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth). The museum even has an 'incidence form' ready for anyone wanting to report an otherworldly event.

Poveglia Island, plague victims - Italy

a photo of Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island, Italy

Mirco Toniolo/ROPI via ZUMA Press

Located off the coast of Venice and Lido, Poveglia sadly reunites all the classical elements of a horror movie: plagues, mass burial ground and mental institute (from the 1920's).

During the bubonic plague and other subsequent pandemics, the island served as a quarantine station for the sick and anyone showing any signs of what could be Black Death contamination. Some 160,000 victims are thought to have died there and the seven acres of land became a mass burial ground so full that it is said that human ash makes up more than 50% of Poveglia's soil.

In 1922 a retirement home for the elderly — used as a clandestine mental institution— opened on the island and with it a fair amount of rumors involving torture of patients. The hospital and consequently the whole island was closed in 1968, leaving all the dead trapped off-land.

Poveglia's terrifying past earned it the nickname of 'Island of Ghosts'. Despite being strictly off-limits to visitors, the site has been attracting paranormal activity hunters looking for the apparition of lost and angry souls. The island would be so evil that some locals say that when an evil person dies, he wakes up in Poveglia, another kind of hell.

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