From the desk of Mr. Brian Paco Alvarez:
“This past Monday I had the pleasure of recruiting our very own Steve Christmas in assisting me in the installation of the Las Vegas News Bureau Exhibition “Viva Las Vegas” at the Hispanic Museum of Nevada. The exhibition features 25 memorable images of famous Latino entertainers from the News Bureau archives. Steve is a great exhibit Preparator and I plan on recruiting him many more times! Thanks Steve!
The opening of the exhibition will be on Thursday, February 7th at 6PM. The Hispanic Museum of Nevada is located at the Embarq offices at 330 S. Valley View Boulevard across from the Springs Preserve.”
Viva Las Vegas
A photographic retrospective of historical images of
Latino entertainers from the world famous
Las Vegas News Bureau Photo and Film archives
Latinos Setting the Stage
The Latino experience in Southern Nevada began after Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821. Shortly after in 1829, Rafael Riviera, a scout for trader Antonio Armijo, became the first European to visit what is now the Las Vegas Valley in the great quest to establish the Santa Fe Trail between New Mexico and Southern California. These early expeditions by traders, couriers and emigrants would build the foundations in which the great cities of the region would develop their rich history and colorful culture. The very name Las Vegas comes from the Spanish word for “the meadows.”
These early explorations would establish Latinos as part of the American experience and would help pave the way for the great entertainment heritage that later developed in Las Vegas.
The Stage is Set
During the 1940s and 50s the American music scene pulsated with the rhythms of Latin music. Latin dance was all the rage such as the Argentinean Tango, the Cuban and Puerto Rican Rumba, Cha Cha, Mambo and Salsa. The Merengue from the Dominican Republic, the Cumbia from Colombia and the Bossa Nova from Brazil also took center stage. American radio stations flooded the airwaves with Latin music and Latin entertainers regularly played the famed stages of Las Vegas.
The first nod to Latin entertainers in Las Vegas occurred at the opening of the Last Frontier in 1942. Inside was the Carillo Bar named after Latino actor Leo Carillo, who starred as the famous sidekick of the film and comic book series the Cisco Kid. It was not until the opening of the Flamingo Hotel a few years later that Las Vegas was graced with the most famous of all Latino entertainers, Xavier Cugat. Cugat, who was born in Catalonia, Spain, immigrated with his family to Cuba at the age of 5 and later to the United States, is noted by many to have had more to do with the infusion of Latin music into the United States than any other musician. Cugat introduced Abbe Lane, Carmen Miranda and Charo to Las Vegas. Cugat was married to all three entertainers at various times of his life.
In the late 1940s, a Cuban named Jack Cortez introduced the entertainment guide titled “Fabulous Las Vegas,” which listed all major acts in Las Vegas. Famous early Latin entertainers such as Carmen Miranda, Desi Arnaz and Tito Guizar were featured in the guide.
Today, Las Vegas is world-renowned for its rich entertainment history and its dynamic live music scene. Latino entertainers continue to play a major role in the development of the destination’s culture and music. Most recently (in November 2007), Las Vegas hosted the Latin GRAMMY® Awards, which celebrate excellence in Latin Music. Some of the hottest acts in Latin music today performed at the awards ceremony, which was broadcast throughout North, Central and South America.
Hispanic Museum of Nevada
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority