History of the Merengue
The Dominican Republic is generally credited with inventing the merengue, but variations of it have evolved over the years throughout the Afro-Caribbean region. Its indelible roots in the Dominican Republic, however, are such that its distinctive music — also known as merengue — is known as the national music of that country.
Like many dances that grew out of the slave communities of the Caribbean, the merengue’s exact origins are unknown. What is certain, however, is that by the middle of the 19th century, the merengue had become the most popular dance in the Dominican Republic. It’s said that in its infancy, the dance was not a couple dance but one in which participants — both men and women — moved around in a circle. The music itself was controversial in its early years because of its highly suggestive nature. In fact, its name, perico ripiao, means “ripped parrot,” allegedly taken from the name of a brothel where merengue music’s roots supposedly began. As it grew in popularity some attempt was made to ban the music, but the passion for the dance was such that those efforts failed, and the dance remains a perennial favorite throughout the Latin American and Caribbean regions. In the United States, it’s especially popular in east coast metropolitan cities, particularly New York, where it first took the country by storm.