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Bridges

Chapter 6: I Love Lucy & Latin Music Across the US

[FOOTAGE: WEST SIDE STORY]

CAST: "Mambo! Mambo!"

Augie and Margo weren't the only ones riding the Latin Dance wave of the fifties to success.

Broadway and Hollywood turned Mambo... and escalating ethnic tensions into the hit, "West Side Story."

Post-war New York now held over half a million Puerto Ricans, many newly arrived.

The musical transformed their hopes and struggles into song.

[WEST SIDE STORY:
"Life can be bright in America,
If you can fight in America,
Life is all right in America,
If you're all white in America..."]

Others sought to repackage the craze for Main Street USA.

[FOOTAGE: ARCHIVE MR. / MRS. ARTHUR MURRAY MAMBO SPOT]

"They were doing the Mambo while I just stood around..."

MRS. MURRAY: Ah Ha! Even the records say what the heck is the Mambo? And we know from your letters you would like to learn the Mambo if it didn't take too long and you could do it at home. Well, my husband says he can teach you the foundation step of the dance in less than a minute. So here's your teacher, Arthur Murray...

As the Mambo began to fade,

[FOOTAGE: PEREZ PRADO ORCHESTRA W/DANCERS]

Pérez Prado came through with another number-one hit, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White." For many it was the introduction to the new easier Cuban dance, the Cha-Cha-Cha.

WASHBURNE: The Cha-Cha-Cha was really popular, especially with younger audiences because it was at a slower tempo, so it was easier to dance to.

GREENFIELD: The Cha-Cha, if you think about the dance step, is actually the idiot's dance, because it's easiest to learn.

AUGIE: Ooooo, we're gonna do the Cha-Cha and the people were...

MARGO: The Cha-Cha was, uh.... easier...

AUGIE: The Cha-Cha was easy.

[FOOTAGE: PEREZ PRADO HORN SECTION]

The Cha-Cha-Cha broadened Latin Music's appeal...

[FOOTAGE: "I LOVE LUCY" EPISODE: DEZI ARNAZ AND LUCILLE BALL PLAYING CONGA]

So did a new television show, "I Love Lucy," starring Cuban singer and bandleader Desi Arnaz and his wife Lucille Ball.

[Desi and Lucy drum]

Before its debut, the two had to convince network executives that the US was ready to accept the premise, the cross-cultural marriage between a Cuban man and an American woman. Top ratings proved them right.

[DESI: That means that I love you...]

But the US's love affair in the fifties with all things Latin was not to last.

SANABRIA: Several things happened to force the decline of the music, the culture... The main thing was that Cuba was taken over by Fidel Castro and the source of the music was cut off.

RUBINSON: The doors to Cuba slammed shut. And they slammed shut psychologically and politically, in the United States. Cuban music, Latin music, all of a sudden became the music of Castro and the Cuban Revolution and the Communists.

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