By Delia Poey (auth.)
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Extra resources for Cuban Women and Salsa: To the Beat of Their Own Drum
This countered negative stereotypes of women, and more specifically racially marked women, performing in nightclub settings. It also appeased her father’s misgivings regarding his daughter’s burgeoning career as a musical performer. She was the “good girl,” unavailable as a sexual object, never drinking to excess or engaging in illicit drug use. As for her musical selection, she performed what was popular with audiences—a more stylized big band version of Cuban music, but also recorded traditional Santería chants in Yoruba dialects on the Cuban Panart label in the 1950s.
48 Montaner’s performance, not incidentally in blackface, was similarly praised as much for her acting as for her singing. The character of Mercé, who is mainly referred to as just “Nana,” is easily recognizable as the “Mammy,” but there are notable departures from the archetypal figure. 49 The character of Mercé, although in a different geographic and cultural context, fits the description. The key difference rests on the fact that unlike the archetypal mammy, Mercé does not demonstrate a preference for her white charges over her own black children since the white woman she dotes on is her own biological daughter.
In so doing, she also brought a leading female presence to the first international recognition of Cuban or Latin music. As the Rumba Craze permeated outward from Cuba to the United States, Europe, and Latin America, it also figuratively echoed back to the island as the growing tourism industry in Havana led to an explosion in demand for rumba. This in turn opened the way for Afrocuban performers to gain visibility in both upscale nightclubs and, increasingly, in venues catering to less affluent and more racially integrated audiences.