For my ethnography project, I chose to study how dancers express social and cultural communication and the different meanings of Latin Dance with a focus on Merengue. The themes for this study are based on ethnicity, regionalism, generation, and gender. I am interested to see the social and political meaning behind Latin American dances, which include Merengue, bachata, and salsa.
Merengue is sometimes called the national dance of the Dominican Republic. Merengue music shares similarities with the Haiti's Mereng music, which is sung in Creole while Merengue is sung in Spanish. Salsa grew out of Mambo and Cuban Son roots. Mambo dancing was already very popular, then Salsa soon became popular in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Columbia. Simultaneously, the popularity of Salsa music and dance spread across North America. Today we dance for various different reasons. Dancing gives many benefits. Some of these benefits are that dancing allows one to express oneself, a sense of unity is found in the dance, dancing provides physical and mental relaxation, and it is a form of exercise. However, much of the social and political meaning is established in a history of conquest and oppression. Merengue specifically originated from African slaves who mimicked the white-upper class dances. Merengue has existed for years in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. By the mid 19th century, Merengue was very popular in the Dominican Republic. It wasn't only used in the Republic but it also became popular through the Caribbean and South America, and became one of the standard dances in Latin America. The Merengue was then introduced into the United States in the New York area, but didn't become popular until several years later. .
Dance has always been a form to express one's emotions. For example, in the African-derived communities, "ritual dances were mechanisms for survival in the face of oppression, brutality, and racism.