Tito Puente Jr. rocks Hispanic Heritage Month

The spicy, rhythmic sounds of Latin music filled the rotunda at the Omni Colonnade as Tito Puente Jr. and his 10-piece orchestra performed to a sold-out crowd at the Hispanic Heritage Month Committee’s gala in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

“This gala makes other people aware of Spanish culture and Spanish music,” Alisha Price, sophomore, said. “It’s a way that you can see what it’s all about.”

Puente began his musical career at a young age under the guidance of his legendary father, “El Rey.” Puente has performed at numerous concerts around the world and has been featured in several magazines, newspapers and television programs, on such channels as E! Entertainment, CBS Noticias, NBC and HBO. His debut album, Guarachando featured the hit single “Oye Como Va,” a cover of his father’s signature standard, which earned the Latin Music Award for “Best Video of the Year.”

Known as “The Prince of Latin Dance,” Puente’s music is a fusion of pop and Latin jazz, all influenced by mambo, cha-cha and merengue.

According to Nanette Vega, the Assistant Director of the Department of Multicultural Student Affairs [MSA] and supervisor for the Hispanic Heritage Month Committee, this is the first time in the history of the committee that a performer of Tito Puente Jr.’s caliber presented a live show.

“I went to the gala because I thought it would be interesting to see Tito Puente Jr., and I haven’t heard of any other opportunities to do so – that and because there’s dinner,” Kelly Younger, sophomore, said.

The three-course dinner began with a light salad and bread rolls, followed by the main course: grilled chicken with mango glaze, rice and beans, fried plantains and flan for dessert.

Once dinner was over, Puente began his performance, in which he showed the audience a brief history of Hispanic music by playing songs from different eras, past and present.

According to those in attendance, the show brought something for everyone.

“I think my father’s music transcends to all cultures and races and generations and people, and what you’ll hear tonight and what you’ll see performing is a great group of men who know the music of ‘El Rey del Timbal,’ Tito Puente Sr.,” Puente said. “We’re going to make everybody dance and feel good about themselves.”

During the performance, many audience members made their way to the dance floor to join Salsa Craze, the student organization aimed at teaching others how to dance salsa.

According to organizers, the gala was a success, fostering the public’s awareness toward many aspects of Hispanic culture in an enjoyable atmosphere.

“One of the main reasons I came down to Miami was to be part of the culture that Miami has, and this only adds to it,” Jillien Cepeda, sophomore, said.

Christine Dominguez can be contacted at c.dominguez3@umiami.edu.