The Spirit Tour is a multifaceted experience presented in collaboration with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and the Creative Justice Initiative, founded by Dr. Vega. The tour includes four projects centered around Afro Caribbean/Latinx cultural expressions of African based spirituality, music, history, and personal narrative. In addition to the release of the book, the Spirit Tour features film screenings and the re-release of the soundtrack of the original When the Spirits Dance Mambodocumentary and culminates with an immersive culture tour in Cuba from July 1st to July 10th, 2018!


About Book

When rock and roll was transforming American culture in the 1950s and ’60s, East Harlem pulsed with the sounds of mambo and merengue. Instead of Elvis and the Beatles, Marta Moreno Vega grew up worshipping Celia Cruz, Mario Bauza, and Arsenio Rodriguez. Their music could be heard on every radio in El Barrio and from the main stage at the legendary Palladium, where every weekend working-class kids dressed in their sharpest suits and highest heels and became mambo kings and queens. Spanish Harlem was a vibrant and dynamic world, but it was also a place of constant change, where the traditions of Puerto Rican parents clashed with their children’s American ideals.

A precocious little girl with wildly curly hair, Marta was the baby of the family and the favorite of her elderly abuela, who lived in the apartment down the hall. Abuela Luisa was the spiritual center of the family, an espiritista who smoked cigars and honored the Afro-Caribbean deities who had always protected their family. But it was Marta’s brother, Chachito, who taught her the latest dance steps and called her from the pay phone at the Palladium at night so she could listen, huddled beneath the bedcovers, to the seductive rhythms of Tito Puente and his orchestra.

Viva Marta Moreno Vega! With honesty, humor, and love, she relives her coming-of-age in Spanish Harlem—the highs and the lows—eloquently documenting how deeply rooted West African cultural traditions are in her rich Puerto Rican heritage. Marta Vega’s memoir makes me want to mambo.” —Susan Taylor, editorial director of Essence and author of Lessons in Living

Book Events

CCCADI - Book Signing & Talk 

When: Thursday, April 26, 2018 | 6 PM - 8 PM
Where: Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute 120 East 125th Street, New York, NY 10035
Admission: FREE | Suggested Admission: $5.00



Brooklyn Museum - Book Signing

When: Saturday, May 5, 2018 | 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Where: Brooklyn Museum, Luce Center for American Art, 5th Floor, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York


New York University

Bronx Community College  

Temple University  

Columbia University  


About DVD/CD

This documentary filmed in mainly in Cuba discusses and details the influence of African spirituality in Cuban society, culture and in its popular music.


This trip is not available at this time.

Click HERE for more information about the past trip

About The Spirit Dance Mambo Cuba Trip

Sunday, July 1st-Tuesday July 10th, 2018

HAVANA | CIEN FUEGOS | TRINIDAD | CAMAGUEY | SANTIAGO/Festival del Fuego (Fire Festival) Dedicated to Puerto Rico

Contact trip coordinator for inquiries and reservations, 

Email: Regina Bultrón Bengoa, at

Be part of the When the Spirits Dance Mambo experience in Cuba!

From Havana to Santiago, When the Spirits Dance Mambo educational cultural trip to Cuba has been carefully curated by  Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, author and Executive Producer, and her team to make sure you experience the African based Yoruba and Haitian traditions of Cuba that have informed her multidisciplinary approach and expression.

Starting off at Cuba’s capital city, Havana, this trip includes guided museum and art studio visits, panels and a film screening on Yoruba traditions, arts and crafts markets, artistic presentations, walking tours of historical centers and a 3 days celebration of our Afro Caribbean traditions at the Festival del Fuego in Santiago, which this year will be dedicated to Puerto Rico.

Come to Cuba with us and let’s celebrate the power of SPIRIT!