Pedro "Cuban Pete" Aguilar
June 14, 1927 – January 13, 2009
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.
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.
You can send a personal e-mail to Cuban Pete's family here.
Cuban Pete was a legendary dancer
known worldwide for his talent and
passion for the mambo. He won
scores of prizes for his innovative
movements which have now become standards
in Latin Dance.
He was known as "King of the
Latin Beat," the "Maestro
of Mambo," and the
Prince of the Palladium"
Read an in-depth interview
with Cuban Pete on
Aguilar was born in Puerto Rico
and grew up in the New York "barrio".
He credited his success to his mother,
Nellie Trujillo Masdeu, his first
His second teacher was the great modern
choreographer and dancer, Katherine
Dunham, with whom he studied for two
Fluent in English and Spanish, he taught
group and private mambo and Latin dance classes at his partner
Barbara Craddock's studio in North Miami. |more...
Pete was accredited by the National Dance
Council of America, the National Dance Teachers
of America. and held an international Adjudicating license
from the International Dance Organization (IDO).
was the Choreographer and consultant for the hit movie, "The
Mambo Kings." Pete and Barbara served as choreographic
consultants and instructors for the Miami City Ballet's "Mambo
No. 2 a.m.," under the direction of Edward Villella
and was choreographer for "Latin Magic,"
an original mambo ballet for the University of the Arts School
of Dance. Pete has appeared in other movies as well.
You could often catch Cuban Pete and Barbara dancing
on Sundays at the GoldCoast Ballroom in Coconut Creek, Florida,
when they were not out on tour, or acting as judges at international
"Cuban Pete, the KING of the Latin
Beat!" --Desi Arnaz
Cuban Pete and Barbara hosted
"sold-out" dance workshops coast-to-coast. Check the
Calendar of Events page for more information about upcoming workshops
and lectures with Barbara.|more...
Career highlights: Life Magazine
article (12/20/54), two White House performances,
for Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson,
a command performance for Queen Elizabeth
of England, and a performance at Madison
Square Garden for Prime Minister Ben Gurion
RAICES Latin Music Museum's exhibition
entitled, "RAICES: The History of Latin
Music in New York City," includes a reproduction of Cuban
Pete's first dance costume, and will be touring throughout the
United States. Please check your local museum listings for information
or contact: 212-427-2244 ext. 572. | more...
Pete, granddaughter Gina (L) and daughter
Lifetime Achievement Award - Casita María
- 05/2006, Fiestas Patronales Benefactor Award
- 2005, 3 Kings Productions Company. Lifetime
Achievement Award - 2004, Key to the City of
Fort Myers, FL - 2004, Lifetime Achievement
Awards & Citations: The Annual Norwegian Salsa Congress
- 9/20/03, Cultural Expressions Productions & 2003
Chicago Salsa Congress - 2/13/03, The Council
of the City of New York - 6/14/02.
Competition Judge at the 2005 Mambo King
Latin Dance Expo & Dance Competition, 2005
Fiestas Patronales Latin Dance Competition, 2004
Mambo King Latin Dance Expo & Dance Competition,
2002 International Latin Dance Competition,
the 1999 International Hustle & Salsa Competition,
and other events.
Performances include New York's Palladium,
Carnegie Hall, The RKO Palace,
The Waldorf Astoria, the Apollo
and California's Virginia Club, as well as
for March of Dimes, Rhythm Foundation,
American Diabetes Association, North
Beach Development, amongst others.
The Council of the City of
New York proclaimed June 14th "Cuban
Cuban Pete, the King
of the Latin Beat !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pete appeared on local, national
and international television, radio and live appearances. For
complete listings see Pete's
Notable live appearances included: dedication of Tito
Puente Way in New York, Tito Puente Tribute,
2nd Annual West Coast Congress All-Star Entertainment,
Hollywood Palladium, Congreso Mundial de la Salsa
in Puerto Rico & New York, halftime for the NBA development
league's Florida Flames and most recently at
Palladium Memories at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Pete (Sr.) appeared on Bravo's documentary,
"History of the Mambo Kings,"
a 2-hour special that traced the
history of Latin music from its Afro-Caribbean
roots to New York's Palladium Ballroom
to the Catskill Mountains.
Cuban Pete made his mark in the Latin dance
world at the dawn of the mambo craze, at the Palladium
Ballroom, the "Home of the Mambo," vaulting
from there to international eminence. By March 1950,
Cuban Pete had nabbed 63 first prizes at the Palladium,
forever immortalizing mambo with his creation of over
100 steps, still the standards of today. These include
but are not limited to, the Porpoise, the Prayer,
the Shimmy Shimmy, a sort of demi-plie with a
knee shimmy action exactly on the clave, the Tango
Fan, Handball Mambo, the Head Snap,
and the Cuban Pete Special, a kick tap tap, en
clave, the most widely imitated step in New York mambo.
Handwork, never before used as embellishment in Latin
dance, became his trade mark, so much so that Machito
often referred to him as "El Cuchillo"
(the knife.) Dance Magazine, (March 1959), Albert
and Josephine Butler, ranked Pete #1 on their list of
mambo luminaries. "Cuban Pete will kick his feet
in the air and beat the dance floor with his knuckles,
all in fine mambo rhythm." Cuban Pete, 50 years
later, still danced a sizzling mambo with
his partner, Barbara Craddock. They performed, taught
and judged nationally and internationally.
Read Pete's Biography in PDF
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