Culture & Art

Feb 1, 2017


Recently raised to Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the "Dominican Merengue", born in the Dominican Republic, is a corporal and cultural expression deep-rooted in the identity of the Dominican people. With fast and malicious rhythm, and Spanish, African and indigenous influences, it attracts more and more tourists. Dance with us this "melody that can be of love".

It is said that dancing is good for health and an excellent anti-depressant, mostly if the rhythm is the cheerful and contagious "Dominican Merengue". Since last December, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) integrated this rhythm among the cultural traditions to be preserved for future generations around the world.

For Leila Boasier Budecker, Iberian Director for the Dominican Republic Tourism, «to receive this news is really an achievement for the Dominican culture, since "Merengue" has been part of our identity for more than a century».

Derived from "merenque," the name that Dominicans gave to the French invaders in the 17th century, this dance may have had its origin in the slaves who, chained one to another, were forced to drag one leg to work in the sugarcane fields. Another version reveals that one of the great war heroes of the Dominican Republic was injured in one leg, and when he returned to his native land, he was received in celebration. In respect for what had happened to him, everyone danced limping and dragging one leg. Some people also say that "Merengue" got its designation to the sweet with the same name, which is light and sweet as the dance.

Whatever the case, it is a caliente dance that feeds the Dominicans daily and social life, and which has more and more fans around the world. After all, songs like "Azur", by Cristian Castro, and "Softly", by Elvis Crespo, are recognized anywhere.

The most popular style of "Merengue" is usually interpreted by a wide range of instruments including saxophones, accordions, trumpets and keyboards.

Between the years 1838 and 1849, the "Upa Habanera" dance was popular throughout the Caribbean. One of its steps was called "merengue", which influenced the institution of the name as we know it today. However, it only won popularity in the years 1850, dethroning the Tumba, a Cuban dance.

The newspapers of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic capital, then carried out a campaign against "Merengue" in favour of the Tumba, because the high society didn´t accept the vulgar lyrics of this musical style, the absence of a religious character, and having its origin associated with African blacks.

The peak of popularity came in the years 1930, when Rafael Trujilo, Ex-President of Dominican Republic, a big fan of "Merengue", used this kind of music in the presidential campaign. The musician, Luiz Alberti, wrote the song "Compadre Pedro Juan", which presented a "decent" lyric, making this musical style unanimously accepted by society, becoming a symbolic music of the national culture.

During the next three decades, "Merengue" adopted a soberer posture and sound, to be reborn in 1961, influenced by American rock and R&B, as well as some elements of Cuban salsa. A shared passion for the peoples of Puerto Rico, Haiti, Venezuela and Colombia. Today, "Merengue" has North-American influences, and although the instruments have changed, the rhythm remains unmistakable, and with steps that allow the dancers to express themselves by girdling.

"Merengue", thus, completes the list of Dominican Heritage recognized by UNESCO, which includes the "Cultural Space of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of the Congos of Villa Mella" and the "Tradition of the Dance Theater Cocolo". Leila Boasier Budecker still points out that, «this UNESCO statement is a demonstration of how our pace has transcended borders and language barriers, reaching every corner of the world». With this recognition, the Dominican Republic, located in Central America, and the second largest island in the Caribbean, is consolidated as a tourist destination not to be missed in the Caribbean. Bathed north by the Atlantic Ocean and south by the Caribbean Sea, it is a destination known for its beautiful beaches, mild tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 25 to 31 degrees, unrepeatable landscapes, unique cultural richness and people´s hospitality and sympathy.

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