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Arsenio Rodriguez (born Ignacio Arsenio Travieso) was a blind Cuban bandleader and composer recognized by scholars as the master of style of Afro-Cuban music called son montuno. He additionally is credited with musical innovations that have led to the evolution of what today is considered and recognized internationally as salsa. He was a trans formative figure for this music in the same way that Louis Armstrong was for jazz. In essence, and without fear of contradiction, there would be no salsa music today without the musical innovations of Arsenio Rodriguez.

After a successful career in his native Cuba, Rodriguez came to NYC in 1947 in an attempt to restore his vision. After the despair of confronting the reality of his permanent blindness and resigned to his fate, he composed La Vida es Un Sueno ("Life is a Dream") which became a popular bolero with its fatalistic sentimental lyrics. In the early 1950's, Rodriguez relocated to NYC where he recruited Cubans, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, and other Latin American musicians for his Conjunto and big band ensembles, playing in prestigious popular venues such as the Palladium Ballroom, the Apollo Theater, Manhattan Center, and Carnegie Hall. Arsenio promoted an enduring relationship with the neighborhoods of the South Bronx and Spanish Harlem (El Barrio) where he lived and played at local clubs, i.e., El Club Cubano, the Tropicana Club, and the Park Plaza. The kinship with these communities inspired Arsenio to dedicate two compositions Como se Goza en El Barrio ("El Barrio is a Lot of Fun") and La Gente del Bronx ("The People of the Bronx").

Arsenio died in Los Angeles, California on December 30, 1970. Despite his stature as a musical innovator and his indelible influence on Latin American popular music, he was buried without a grave memorial on January 6, 1971 at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, NY, forgotten for over forty years. Only grass covered the obvious void between the surrounding grave markers like a blanket of silence. This enigma was recently rectified this past February, when a group of dedicated fans researched and launched a year long press campaign calling attention to the desolate and deplorable state of affairs surrounding the grave site. As a result of the campaign, the legal owners of the plot came forward and graciously granted permission to upgrade the grave site. Veteran salsa musician, bandleader, and disciple of Arsenio's music, Larry Harlow, generously donated the cost of the grave memorial. Today, on the site where only grass once grew, a Cuban flag proudly waves in the gentle breeze above a bronze marker bearing the inscription: Arsenio Rodriguez 1911-1970.


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