Salsa Dancing in Xela: A Brief History

By Rosita Pérez

Salsa – sexy, sultry and sensuous – all things latina. Latin, maybe, typical conservative Guatemalan? Maybe not. Salsa in Xela is deeply rooted in the extranjero community. Up until 10 years ago, Salsa didn’t exist in Xela. Merengue reigned.

In Casa Verde a congenial circle of friends shared their passion for dance. Among those friends were the founders of the four current salsa schools in Xela; Ciomara of TropicaLatina, Erika of Salsa Rosa, Fernando of SalsaFher, and Vernor of Cardenas. The dance they were passionate about was merengue. Nobody danced Salsa. If Salsa played, they deserted the dance floor.

In 1997, Fernando of SalsaFher was bartending at Casa Verde. As a promotional idea, he asked Erika to teach dance classes to attract customers. Merengue classes were from 5 to 6. From 6 to 7 salsa classes were offered though Erika didn’t know more than the basic Salsa step, some simple turns and a couple of Cuban steps. Not that it mattered because no-one ever showed up for Salsa class.

The first salsero in Xela was a New Yorker, named Mark. He showed up for Salsa class. He shared what he knew with Erika and together they learned new steps by watching salsa videos.

Mark was in Xela for 2 or 3 years. In 1999, the famous Chito, known for his style and elegance, taught and shared his brand of Salsa. By then there were various salsa teachers. Students were mostly tourists and Spanish students. Xela salsa teachers taught classes and learned as much, if not more from their students as their students learned from them. A string of extranjeros came and went and left their mark on the salsa community.

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