Some­time in the late 1940s, two young Latin musi­cians in New York, Joe Loco and Tito Puente, sat down to com­pose songs for a new album by the band­leader Pupi Campo. Mostly, they wrote in a lan­guage and style intended for the city’s postwar wave of Cuban and Puerto Rican new­comers, the obvious audience.

The title for one tune, though, com­bined a Caribbean dance with a Yid­dish suffix, albeit slightly mis­spelled: “Mam­bonick.” As both Mr. Puente and Mr. Loco knew, the young Jewish dancers who thronged to Latin music clubs had coined the phrase and wore its hybrid handle with pride.

Why did we follow the mambo?” said Larry Harlow, a child of Jewish Brooklyn who began hearing and playing Latin music in his teens, more than 60 years ago. “Because the girls fol­lowed the mambo. And we fol­lowed the girls. And if you didn’t know how to dance, they wouldn’t look at you.”

From such a util­i­tarian motive grew a phe­nom­enon of cul­tural cross-​​pollination between Jews and His­panics in the world of Latin music. What began in part with a kind of trans­ac­tion — Jewish fans seeing the His­panic musi­cians as allur­ingly exotic, and those musi­cians in turn mar­keting their product to Jews — evolved into a deeper and more enduring artistic partnership.

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