The guaracha, a popular music and dance genre, originated on the stage of Cuba’s 19th– century comic theater. By the mid-1800s, the teatro bufo (“buffon” or “jester”), akin to the American minstrel, entertained crowds with its vernacular humor and satire. The guaracha provided the musical accompaniment for the comic action on stage. Hence the humorous, picaresque, and satirical lyrics that have typified the guaracha from the beginning. Musically, the guaracha often combines, or incorporates, the bolero, rumba, clave, and other distinctly Cuban rhythms. It usually follows a 6/8 measure or a 3/4 with 2/4 sequence. However, the guaracha is not so much defined by its eclectic musical composition as by its textual content. An authentic guaracha expresses a populist, satirical, and comical perspective on local customs, personages, and topics. In the 20th century, the guaracha developed independently from its theatrical role to become a musical genre in its own rights.
During the 19th century, Enrique Guerrero (d. 1887) composed famous guarachas for the bufo state. His La pluma de tu sombrero, La prieta santa, and Mi bandera cubana are considered classics in the genre. Antonio Fernández, better- known as Ñico Saquito, and Los Guaracheros de Oriente popularized guaracha music, especially the guaracha-son, in the 1940s, and 1950s with such tunes as Compay gallo Maria Cristina, Jaleo, No dejes caminar por vereda, La negra Leonor, etc. Like many other Cuban music genres, guaracha has also contributed to the formation of salsa. Celia Cruz (b.1924), recognized as “Reina de as salsa” (Queen of Salsa), was first known as the “Guarachera de Cuba’ (Roughly, Cuba’s Guaracha Singer) par excellence. Celia Cruz revived the guaracha tradition by incorporating and interpreting the genre within contemporary salsa.