El Floridita—Where I Fell in Love

Across town is an unassuming storefront in a corner shopping mall. A couple of male Latinos hang around having a smoke. They step aside as you approach the entrance, looking you all over. The door opens to another world . . . El Floridita.

Mirrors on three walls reflect the band—the piano, congas, drums, cowbells, horns. Every cell in your body is smiling, yes, yes. The music irresistibly pulls you in, and a rhythmic wave pulsates throughout your body.


salsa dancers, El Floridita, Hollywood salsa restaurant, nightclub

Salseros are already moving on the dance floor. Hips gliding effortlessly in Cuban motion. Couples swaying and twirling. Steady eye-contact says everything and nothing—strangers and lovers for just this dance.All around, tables are filled. Waiters shimmy between the dancers and diners, balancing steaming plates overhead, of sizzling charbroiled meats, fried plantains, and saffron rice served in clay pots with shrimp and calamari. Mario smiles and nods hello.

Your eyes search through a haze of bodies until you spot a familiar head or jacket at the bar — the post for single men. Heading there, your feet wind through the tables. Closer, you recognize one, perhaps two partners. You scan the room and on the dance floor spot another.”Ah,” you relax. “Tonight will be good.”

The music changes. Dancers leave the floor.

A sole violin begins a sensual bolero. Someone takes your hand from behind and leads you out. You don’t speak. The music is loud; it becomes your voice. Slow, step, step, sustained undulating rhythm teases, “Make love to me . . . later.”

Soon, you and your partner move as one to the music. The clave beat goes on and on until there is no you, no dance steps, no partner . . . only energy flowing for as long as the music lasts . . . at Floridita.

© Darlene Lancer 2020


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