amargue city    They say that Amargue- first appeared on the sugar plantations. They say it’s the daughter of Cuban Son music and Boleros, and it grew up in bars and brothels in the Dominican Republic at the start of the 20th Century. Later on it was called Bachata it became the rhythm for the men and women who worked on farms. Being lower class music, it was forbidden during Trujillo’s dictatorship.

After the dictator’s death, in the 80’s and 90’s. thousands of Dominicans emigrated to the US, particularly to New York, as their elders had in the 60’s and 70’s. And they took Amargue with them to the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. Washington Heights is cheerful, noisy and fairly run-down, and the smell of yucca and toston make it a good microcosms to visit. It’s a part of town full of dollar shops and hairdressers, as well as meeting places where music takes everything with it when night falls. In the afternoon the noise of traffic subsides, the shops close and the streets fall silent. There’s only one sound left in the area. The sound of Bachata multiplies.

While you have rice and beans for supper at Casa del Mofongo you can listen to cabaret bachata, or, at the 27 de febrero restaurant, Bachata sung live by the legend Edilio Paredes. Every Friday people who have Bachata in their DNA -young and not so young people- go out to listen to their favourite DJ. They don’t know how the night is going to finish, but they do know that in this part of town they’ll be able to hear their favourite sounds on every corner.

from amargue Manhattan to bachata Queens

It’s almost six in the afternoon when Liz reaches her Jamaican house in Queens. After spending more than eight hours cleaning offices in midtown Manhattan, she lies down on her sofa, covered with a rug from the Andes brought from Peru. After ten minutes she’s in front of the mirror putting on her make-up. It’s just after seven when she goes up the stairs from her basement house and then goes down to take the metro.

At the same time, at the other end of Queens, Ramiro turns off the lights at his Ecuadorian restaurant, moves the tables with their smell of fried pork to one side, and hangs up revolving mirror balls. The DJ comes in the door, ready to move all the Latin American hips with his Bachata. On the other side of the street, things are livening up in Jackson Heights, where women in burqas, old men from Nepal and Columbian transsexuals queue up in the supermarket. It’s half past eight when Liz goes into the family restaurant turned Bachata discotheque. A dozen women are already sitting down, laughing and making noise with their heels while they wait. They’ve come from all over the city, from the Washington Heights Bachata epicentre too, to meet up with their future dance partners, many of whom are immigrants who have left their wives and children in their home countries. Tonight, and for just a dollar, they’ll have smooth hand to keep them company to the rhythm of Bachata.
For twelve dollars Bachata women talk to them and keep them company for half an hour. And that goes on until midnight, one o’clock or two o’clock. And there are dozens more little Bachata bars like Ramiro’s along Roosevelt Avenue, which seems like the city limit, where everything and nothing happens.