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A TASTE OF SALSA AND OTHER LATIN MUSIC

And the beat goes on - the beat of Latin music - that is. The rhythms of Latin music and dance has made its way to United States and to the rest of the world, much to the delight of people of all ages.

To honor the musical traditions of colorful Latin music, the U.S. Postal Service will issue four stamps of 37-cent denominations, featuring dances that trace their origins to the Caribbean islands. Each stamp will show creative designs that express their personal interpretations of merengue, salsa, mambo and the cha-cha.

Salsa, which may owe its broad appeal to the foundation of Afro-Cuban music and dance, combined with the influences of American jazz and blues. This sound came to be called salsa in the late 1960s.

Musicians from around the world blended the salsa rhythms of their homelands.

Cha-cha was brought to the United States from Cuba. The stamp was designed by Edel Rodriquez, who left his country in 1980. Rodriquez remembers the music of the guitars, the maracas and the singing about life and love in Cuba, and the shuffling 1-2, 1-2-3 beat of the cha-cha.

Mambo made its way to the United States. The stamp was designed by Sergio Baradat, who left Cuba with his parents and immigrated to the United States. Growing up in Miami and New York City, Baradat's life was immersed in the Latino communities of these two cities.

The Latino big bands performed for patrons in various nightclubs where dance was king. Known for its upbeat tempo, fast footwork and sensuous body language, mambo laid the groundwork for the cha-cha and salsa.

The rhythmic beat of salsa was given impetus by Jose Ortega, who was born in Ecuador, but grew up in New York City. Otega's migration parallels the nature of salsa, now makes its home in countries around the world. Salsa dancers are attired in tight-fitting clothes with the ladies showing their billowing skirts to impress the sense of movement and musical energy.

The merengue had its origin in Mexico City. Freelance illustrator Rafael Lopez designed the stamp and is well known for his expertise on the dance floor.

Brought to the Dominican Republic by French and Spanish colonists, the merengue descends from a European style of dancing that appealed to the upper classes. Its popularity was adapted by the country's peasant population. Lopez uses his variety of colors from red and orange to yellow and lime green, suggesting the tropical sunlight and vegetation of the Caribbean islands.

First day postmarks of these stamps will be available via the Fulfillment Service of the USPS by calling toll free, 1-800-STAMPS-84.