The Cuban bolero evolved from the Cuban genre known as trova in the eastern city of Santiago during the late 19th century. The bolero's origins included several poetic styles, and as it emerged it was primarily a music accompanied on the Spanish guitar. Soon after the bolero spread to neighboring Latin American countries-particularly Mexico-and since the mid-20th century has remained as the quintessential romantic ballad form.
In Cuba, single trovadores (troubadours) gave way to duos and trios with lush vocal harmonies, and the single guitar was joined by other guitars as well as several "offspring," including the laúd (a lute derivative) and the tres (a six-string steel guitar mostly associated with the Creole son). One of the most important Cuban trios dating back to the 1920s and '30s in Cuba was Trio Matamoros, and its leader, Miguel Matamoros, was one of the island's most prolific composers. Other well-known composers included Nilo Menéndez and lyricist Adolfo Utrera, who ushered in an era of the adaptation of well-known poetry to the style. In the decades to follow, Cuban composers such as José Antonio Méndez would take the bolero to new heights along with composers Agustín Lara (México), Rafael Hernández (Puerto Rico) and many others.
By the mid-20th century, big bands in Cuba and New York explored the richness of jazz harmony within the bolero style and brought the world crooners such as Cuba's immortal Benny Moré, whose melodic phrasing is the envy of every vocalist to emerge since. By the birth of salsa music in New York City in the 1970s, the bolero became standard repertoire along with the staple of Cuban rhythms for all musicians of the genre. In the '90s, Mexican pop singers such as Luis Miguel and Alejandro Fernández introduced new versions of the classics to young listeners who found common ground with their abuelos (grandparents) as they enjoyed the same songs 50 years after the fact. Undoubtedly, the bolero lives on, and continues to serenade listeners and dancers everywhere. .Rebeca Mauleon .