College News

'History of Salsa: From Africa to the World' presented at CCCC cultural enrichment event

10.03.2022 • Arts & Entertainment, College & Community, College General, Special Events

SANFORD - Though people often force music into rigid categories and attribute its development to one group of people in one part of the world, that's not always how popular styles emerge.

That was what Norberto "Betto" Herrera demonstrated for Central Carolina Community College students during "History of Salsa: From Africa to the World," an hour-long presentation focused on the development of the dance music from African rhythms to its popular Latin American genre -- and even its influence on other forms, from songs performed by artists as diverse as Coldplay and SpongeBob SquarePants.

"This is what salsa or Latin music is all about," said Herrera, a native of Ecuador who now directs Mambo Dinamico, a Latin dance company based in the Raleigh area that specializes in spreading cultural awareness through Latin dance. "It's about different cultures coming together and blending in, two different parts of the world coming together to create something new."

Moving back and forth from his laptop perched on the podium to conga drums and a table full of percussion instruments, Herrera blended the story of salsa with video and audio tracks of Latin dance music and even some of his own demonstrations on the drums, claves and maracas. At the end, he even led a group of students and CCCC employees through some basic salsa steps they had been watching on video and in demonstrations.

The journey began in Africa with distinctive rhythms that still form the foundation for salsa. Herrera then traced the music through the Atlantic slave trade to Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean, where it became firmly rooted in local cultures. And then throughout the United States, carried by Latin and African Americans who spread the style to influential musicians in New York City and into the broader American culture.

While making his point about how cultures accept, appropriate and absorb new ideas and styles from other cultures, Herrera occasionally took a short, but deeper dive into related topics -- like how spirits in the Yoruba religion from West Africa were animated in Latin dance by creating specific movements that reflected their positions in the universe and roles in the spirit world.

You can still see those movements in Latin dance today.

"When you take one person from one part of the world and you move them, it's not just the person that comes with it," Herrera said. "All of the culture comes with that one person."

Herrera is a nationally renowned dance director and independent researcher of Latin dance and music who has participated in international dance conferences, judged Salsa competitions and appeared in publications like Southern Living magazine and on local television. He received a 2020 Latino Diamante Award for his work and contributions in arts and culture throughout North Carolina.

"History of Salsa -- From Africa to the World" was sponsored by the CCCC Arts Career Community and ACES, the Academic and Cultural Enrichment Series, which draws notable scholars each year to engage university transfer students in intellectual discussion. The series continues on Oct. 25 with a free, live concert by noted ragtime and jazz pianist Ethan Uslan.

For more information on Central Carolina Community College - which is dedicated to providing pathways to achievable dreams, visit

'History of Salsa: From Africa to the World' presented at CCCC cultural enrichment event

Working from his laptop, Norberto "Betto" Herrera plays video and audio clips to show how salsa music and dance developed in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

'History of Salsa: From Africa to the World' presented at CCCC cultural enrichment event

Norberto "Betto" Herrera taps out some rhythms on the bongos during his presentation at Central Carolina Community College explaining the evolution of salsa music.

'History of Salsa: From Africa to the World' presented at CCCC cultural enrichment event

Norberto "Betto" Herrera, director of the Mambo Dinamico dance company, demonstrates some common steps in Latin American salsa and explains how they derived from storytelling.

'History of Salsa: From Africa to the World' presented at CCCC cultural enrichment event

Norberto "Betto" Herrera from the Mambo Dinamico dance company interprets motion in Latin American salsa as part of his presentation at Central Carolina Community College showing how different cultures combined to create an entirely new genre.