Happy Birthday to “El Ciego Maravilloso”

Many people would have given up on an adventurous, creative life after being blinded in an unfortunate accident at a young age, but not Arsenio Rodríguez.  The talented musician and band leader became known as “El Ciego Maravilloso” (the marvelous blind man) as he whirled African rhythms and the sounds of conga drums through Cuban music. The innovative style was christened mambo. Born in Güira de Macurijes, Cuba, on August 31, 1911, he immigrated to New York in 1952, where he performed at the Palladium Ballroom during the golden years of mambo and son montuno.  His music influenced younger musicians playing the next movement, salsa.  Ben Ratliff of the New York Times wrote of Rodríguez’ music, “If you are a guitar player, it will make you want to play. If you are a dancer, it will make you want to dance. [Rodríguez] makes you begin to hear rhythm as he does; he improves you.”

Happy Birthday to Cantinflas, Comedian and Humanitarian

Cantinflas, a celebrated comedic actor, was born Mario Moreno Reyes on August 12, 1911, in Mexico City, Mexico.  Cantinflas was from a poor family, and as a child, he was a street performer to earn money.  In 1937, Cantinflas married his wife and lifelong collaborator, Valentina Subareff.  He worked his way to Hollywood, where fellow comedian Charlie Chaplin, who saw one of Cantinflas’ earliest films, declared Cantinflas to be the greatest comedian alive.  He starred in 49 films, including the American film “Around the World in Eighty Day”.  He never forgot his background, and used his millions to aid Mexico’s poor.  People lined up at the door of his home in Mexico, and the generous philanthropist was always able to help.