Sergio Rivero, Reveals and Captures the the Spirit of the Rumbero, at Sumei Fire Station

BY lyanne


Rumba is a “Latin” dance. It has its rhythmic roots in Africa and found its way to Cuba. It migrated to the U.S. in the early 1930s, and is sometimes still referred to as the “Cuban rumba.”  Rumba is considered the “dance of love” because of the sensual interplay of the partners’ movements and the emotion of the music used. Dancing rumba is supposed to tell a story. You can fill the room with feeling, your interpretation of the story—love in bloom, unrequited love, jilted love—expressed through your steps, when and how you look at your partner, your arms. Sergio Riveros, painting capture, the rhythmic interpretation, music timing, and dance position of the dance.


Rumba is fundamentally a “body” dance. Each step is punctuated by “settling” through the hip (also called Cuban motion). Although you can “throw” your hips from side to side, Cuban motion occurs correctly through proper use of ankles and knees in the transfer of weight from one foot to the other.


The time signature for rumba is 4/4. In the basic footwork, the dancer takes three steps in the four beats of each measure. Basic timing is Quick Quick Slow but is sometimes syncopated as Quick Quick & Slow to allow four steps in a measure.


Always stand up straight, with your four blocks of body weight positioned over each other. Under no circumstances should you “reach” for your partner by bending at the waist. Closed position: This is a LOOSE CLOSED POSITION. Partners stand about six inches apart facing each other. The arms are not raised as in smooth closed position but fall comfortably from the shoulders and are rounded toward the partner. The man’s right hand is on the lady’s left shoulder blade. The lady’s left arm is to be on top of the man’s right arm. The lady’s right and the man’s left hands are joined at eye level. There is no offset of bodies (as in smooth dances) nor will there be an exaggerated top line. Dancers should stand eye to eye.

Open Facing Position: Partners are further apart, holding hands left to right, in shake hands position or both hands, as a figure dictates. The arms should curve down from the shoulders, with forearms extending straight forward from the elbow, roughly parallel to the floor. Man’s palm is up and lady’s palm faces down, with her fingers in the man’s hand and his thumb on top of her hand. These images capture the tradition moves of a rumbero.  More specifically the secrets of the dance is too captured in Mr. Rivero’s, printed series. In his pictures he captures the subtle phases that that is displayed in the authentic moves of the countryside and villages in Afro-Cuba.


BIO: Sergio Rivero is a triple threat in the world of art: painter,
performer/singer and composer of music. He combines his life experiences,
rich Afro-Cuban culture and unique perspective on life in his art.

“Rivero… and the pursuit of his dreams now serve as a window through which all Latinos can look at an era that dates as far back as the times of the colonization of the Caribbean Islands by the Spaniards.” *(Contributed by Juan A. Moreno Velasquez)

Sergio Rivero was humbly born in Santiago de Cuba, on the 8th of September 1931. His family moved to the capital of Cuba, Havana where his interest in painting began at an early age.  He never really stood out in art class.  He spontaneously picked up a pencil one day when he saw a picture on the cover of a magazine which caught his eye and he began to draw it.  He received many compliments on his drawings and realized he had a talent.  During the pre- revolution, Sergio’s family was poor and he could not continue school because his mother could not afford it.  At the age of 14, after finishing the sixth grade he began working at an auto repair shop.  He continued to work there until the death of his mother at the age of 18.  His mother, America, a single parent, who worked as a contracted chef for wealthy families, provided the bare essentials for her family.  They didn’t have anything in abundance.  Sergio had only one pair shoes and a couple clothing items he washed nightly to wear again.


“It was his mother who provided the first incentives for Rivero, both in art and in music as she provided a very simple painting set.  Her approval of his first composition, which she heard him sing in the bathroom set him on his way to the pursuit of his art.” *(Contributed by Juan A. Moreno Velasquez)


He began painting portraits at every opportunity he saw possible and soon he began to earn some pennies.  He was barely able to manage through some very hard times.  For 3 years he lived on the streets and slept anywhere he could.  He slept in a friend’s store, in cars and on steps.  “We had a hard time as we salvaged for a piece of bread to eat”.


Rivero continued to sing to whom ever would listen.  He finally caught the attention of a radio executive in Cuba and got his big break into the music business.  Although he continued to draw and paint it took a back seat when he became a professional singer/composer.  He composed and performed such songs like “Anita Tun Tun”, “Ando Buscando una novia”, “Lluvia” just to mention a few. His music allowed him to visit various countries in Latin America and perform on their television networks.


In 1968, Rivero served 3 years for trying to leave Cuba and finally in 1980, he was granted permission to leave as a political exile.  He lived in Spain then made his way to the United States, destination New York City.


It wasn’t until 1990 that Sergio awakened his dormant visual artistry.  After settling into the US he realized the Cuba he once knew was long gone.  He was not sure if he would ever be able to travel there again.  He then started to relive his childhood through his paintings.  He drew the landscapes he held dear to his heart like the famous “Morro” and “Malecon” in Havana.  He then also drew from his memory the Rumba dancers he witnessed dancing in the old styled homes called “solares”.


“Rivero is indeed an inspiration, and through his art, he plays an educational function by preserving with an anthropological honesty the beauty of a time that is long gone, but that survives and breathes through the varied musical expressions of the drum today.” *(Contributed by Juan A. Moreno Velasquez)


“In his art, he brings back a past that is deeply rooted in his afro- Cuban experience in the solares of Havana.” *(Contributed by Juan A. Moreno Velasquez)


That is how his technique which he calls, “Transperencias Cosmicas dentro de la Cultura Afro- Cubana” (translation “Cosmic Transparencies within the Afro- Cuban Culture) came to life.  In his Transparencies, Rivero is able to pass on the memories of his childhood experiences in the Cuban solares, in a manner that captures the movements and the experience of virtual sound into a still painting.


When you look at a painting from Sergio Rivero, you can close your eyes and see the masterful depiction of the drum overtures as they are danced in the patterns of Rumba, in the styles of El Yambo, El Guanguanco and Columbia.


Juan A. Moreno Velasquez stated regarding a past exhibition – This art collection [exhibition titled “La Rumba de Cajon” (translation ‘Rumba of Wooden Crate’)] is truly expressive in its visual form as tradition, movement, and sound give the impression of a mental transport to a timeless movement where the traditional sound of the wooden [crate] maintained a musical expression that presents the historical perspective of the life in the Cuban solares. This is a true anthropological and visual experience for those that love the connotations that follow the sound of the drum, from the times of slavery, all the way up to modern times.” *(Contributed by Juan A. Moreno Velasquez)


Growing amidst the Yoruba culture (religion with origins from
Africa) he cultivated an understanding of the religion through its
spiritual ceremonies.  Rivero uses “matte” (black and white) acrylic paint to create a real musical expression that explodes onto the canvas.

The artist last visited Cuba in Spring of 2002, after 22 years of separation.  Although he had, due to the distance, been estranged from his extended family, many of whom had passed away, he was excited to see his friends who were living.  He says if it weren’t for their encouragement and support he would not have pursued a career in music and/or art.  He noted the streets were better kept than when he was younger but many of the sidewalks and buildings looked run down, unmaintained.  However, the new conditions of the Cuba he left do not change the picture he has in his mind or on his canvas.


Sergio resides in Washington Heights, in Upper Manhattan with wife Amada.  He  has 2 daughters Yamila and Admin.  He also has 6 grandchildren ranging from ages 1 to 18 years.  He is currently working on his next collection titled “Jazz, in Black and White”.  In this collection he will explore the influence of Latin sounds like the conga in Jazz.  Rivero feels there is a lack of art that makes the connection between the roots in Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music to Jazz.  Sergio as a visual artist sees the future full of opportunities to expand his technique and tell history through his art.

2 Responses to “Sergio Rivero, Reveals and Captures the the Spirit of the Rumbero, at Sumei Fire Station”

  1. Miguel Diaz Says:

    Hi, is Sergio’s art for sale? & where can I find it?



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