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Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck: The Mambo Kings

Marty McFly and Doc Brown had the Delorean to go travel through time; We have the Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck. Every week, we’ll hop in our time traveling machine, gun it to 88 MPH, and go back in time to bring you the best from the good ol’ days. Will it be a clip from an old telenovela? An old school music video? Stick around and find out!

We Latinos love a good tragedy. We also love good music and love stories. It probably has to do something with our collective history, which is a series of one powerful nation or another taking a big ol’ poop on us while we fight amongst ourselves for the scraps. If you can’t sing, you get depressed and sit around in your underwear eating Cheetos all day. As for love, there are like a bijillion Latinos, so you know there is a lot of “love” going on. “The Mambo Kings” is a perfect amalgam of these three things with a generous sprinkling of handsome and hot to make the bitter pill go down.

The 1992 “The Mambo Kings” movie was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Oscar Hijuelos, “The Mambo Kings Sing Songs Of Love”. It tells the story of two Cuban musician brothers named Nestor and Cesar Castillo, played by Antonio Banderas, Armande Assante, and Armand Assante’s terrible Cuban accent, respectively. The brothers leave Cuba for New York in the early 50’s after they were run out of Havana by a gangster. They work at a meat packing plant, but dream of riding the mambo craze then going on in the U.S. out of all the cow guts. They form a band called…wait for it…The Mambo Kings. Antonio Bandera’s character is hung up on his old Cuban girlfriend Maria, played by smoking hot Talisa Soto. He writes a song called, “Beautiful Maria of My Soul”, which gets the attention of Desi Arnaz. Though they appear on “I Love Lucy”, their lives completely fall apart and lots of bad stuff happens. We won’t spoil it for you, but it’s seriously depressing.

The book is amazing and you should definitely check it out. The movie is great too, with two criticisms: 1) Armand Assante is no where near as sexy as he thinks he is. We don’t know who told him he is a steaming sexpot that no woman can resist, but he is wrong. He looks not unlike a shaved ferret. Maybe he was over-praised by his mom? 2) Desi Arnaz, Jr. plays his father in the film, which you’d think would be great given how much he looks like him. Desi Jr’s accent is terrible! You’d think given the fact that his father has the most famous Cuban accent of all time, he could do better. Still, the film is highly entertaining. It features cameos from Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. The music is truly wonderful, and the soundtrack went platinum. Nestor’s trumpet playing is performed by legendary Cuban trumpet player Arturo Sandoval. It also inspired a musical that ran off-broadway for a couple of years. The film launched the career of Antonio Banderas here in the States. It was his first English language movie and he had to take intensive classes just so he could read his lines. Without “The Mambo Kings” we would never have “Spy Kids 3”, and THAT would be a tragedy.

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