Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar,
81, passed away on January 13, 2009, in Miami, FL.
Cuban Pete grew up in New York’s El Barrio and made his mark in the Latin dance world at the dawn of the Mambo craze, in New York’s famous Palladium Ballroom, and from there vaulted to international prominence. Known as the "King of the Latin Beat," "Mr. Mambo," and the "Prince of the Palladium," he invented scores of dance movements and hand embellishments now viewed as standards of Latin dance. He served as a catalyst for social change in the entertainment and social arenas by being the first "man with a tan" to dance with a white woman onstage; in 1951 he danced with Millie Donay at the Palladium, ushering in one of the first instances of integration on the dance floor.
In his multi-decade career, he performed in movies, television, stage, and danced for American Presidents, heads of state and dignitaries, as well as serve as choreographer and consultant for the film, "Mambo Kings." He adjudicated at many prestigious dance events worldwide, and was a skilled lecturer on the history of Latin dance and music.
With Barbara Craddock, he helped make history in the preservation of "clave," by serving as choreographic consultant and instructor for Miami City Ballet’s unprecedented work, "Mambo No. 2 a.m.," and was choreographer for "Latin Magic," an original mambo ballet for the University of the Arts School of Dance in Philadelphia.
The recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to Latin dance, he was referred to as "the greatest mambo dancer ever" by LIFE Magazine, Tito Puente and George Goldner of TICO Records. He is archived in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC and RAICES Latin Music Museum in New York.
He is survived by his children, daughters Denise Gerard and Petrina Aguilar, son Sean Peter Aguilar, granddaughter Gina Gerard, grandson Noah Aguilar, sisters Socorra Blackman, Chickie Masdeu, Yvette Masdeu, many nieces, nephews, cousins, and dance partner, Barbara Craddock. He is predeceased by his brothers Tony Aguilar and Pedro Aguilar, Jr., and his mother, Nellie Trujillo Masdeu.
In celebration of his life, a gathering will be held on Saturday, January 17, 2009, 1-3 p.m., with a memorial service at 3 p.m., at Boyd’s Family Funeral Home, 6400 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, FL. A memorial service will be held in New York at a later date, details to follow.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:
Boys Harbor Inc. - Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts
One East 104th Street
New York, NY 10029-4495
Attn: Nina Olson
In Memoriam: Pedro "Cuban Pete" Aguilar
Cuban Pete is now dancing "en clave" with the angels.