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The Latin Explosion: Introduction

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There have been Latin fads before -- Xavier Cugat, et al -- but never like this. Mainstream America started to pay attention when the murder of Texas-born pop star Selena in 1995 produced a JFK Jr.-size outpouring of grief among Hispanics. Then Selena begat Jennifer, (Menudo, of course, begat Ricky Martin), and la vida got totally loca. In this city, the Latin beat has been getting louder over a period of years, and this summer, finally, New York's Hispanics are feeling their power as never before. Huge swaths of the Bronx have been revitalized (ten years ago, who would have imagined it would be a nightlife destination for well-heeled Manhattanites), and there are stirrings of rebirth in East Harlem. In the next mayoral election, two of the leading candidates will be Puerto Rican, and fast-growing Dominican and Mexican communities are bursting with entrepreneurial energy. Culturally, the watchword is crossover, with three-star restaurants like Nobu bragging about their South American influences and Latin rhythms infiltrating clubs and recording studios all over town. In fact, the city itself seems to be crossing over -- crossing over to its future.


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