A type of rumba. Originating in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery on the island in 1886, guaguancó represents the fusion of several Afro-Cuban profane rituals, known as rumbas. The other two important varieties are yambú and columbia. Guaguancó’s dancers, moving to the beat of percussion instruments and surrounded by a chorus with a lead singer, perform a figurative erotic choreography. The male pursues the female with strong pelvic movements of a mimetic nature. She, in turn, evades and repels him, until ultimately surrendering. The final symbolic act of possession is known as the vacunao.
Many, if not most, guaguancós were anonymous compositions. The oldest, dating from late Spanish colonial era, are known as rumbas “de tiempo España.” Though African in rhythm, the guaguancó reveals certain Spanish influences, especially by way of flamenco and the rural décimas, in the text of its songs. According to Mongo Santamaría (b. 1927), one of the genre’s leading interpreters, guaguancó came about when Afro- Cubans tried to sing flamenco.
Founded in the 1950s, the ensemble “Muñequitos de Matanzas” has performed traditional rumba, especially guaguancó, in the urban Matanzas style. Since the late 1990s, authentic Cuban rumba has experienced an international revival, largely due to groups like the “Muñequitos de Matanzas,” Los Papines, AfroCuba, and others.