The Iconic Tito Puente, El Rey de los Timbales, Gets His Own Google Doodle

The Iconic Tito Puente, El Rey de los Timbales, Gets His Own Google Doodle nuestro stories

Credit: Nuestro Stories

Wherever he went, Tito Puente took Latinos with him – and Tito Puente went EVERYWHERE. 

His groundbreaking career and trailblazing path prompted his feature as the Google Doodle on October 11, 2022. Google chose this Latino legend in order to honor him during the 2022 Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. 

Who was the legendary Latino artist Tito Puente?

Born Ernesto Antonio Puente Jr. in Spanish Harlem, his Nuyorican roots led him to dance, music, and all things Mambo from an early age. By the tender age of 13, he was working as a professional musician and had learned to play a wide variety of instruments; marimba, timbales, saxophone, and vibraphone among others. His abilities led him to an apprenticeship with the Latin Jazz group Machito Orchestra. Inevitably, after fighting in World War II with the US Navy, Puente went on to study at Julliard. 

His formal education at Julliard – combined with the natural talent that he had spent years developing as a child – led him to create his own 10-piece band. A band that expanded greatly over time to include upwards of 20 instruments at any given time. 

Though his talent made him an amazing musician and bandleader, it was his style, his charisma, and his natural way of winning over a crowd that made him a star. Through his work, Puente kicked off the Golden Age of Mambo. With a piece of music deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban influence, he managed to create a powerful bridge for Latin artists to cross over into mainstream success. He introduced the United States as a hold to a cultural influence that many would have left tucked in dark corners never to be heard from. 

His reputation grew, and as such so did his musical catalog. Puente began introducing a variety of musical genres and subgenres of music, all Latin based in nature, to a large audience; Brazilian Bossa Nova, Cuban Cha Cha, and Dominican Merengue all began to make their way into live shows, creating a kaleidoscope of music from all around the world that found its way onto radio airwaves for everyone to enjoy. 

Over the course of his career, he won five Grammys, recorded over 100 albums, and maintained a tour schedule of upwards of 300 shows a year until he passed in 2000 at the age of 77. 

On October 11th, 2022, Puente was featured as the homepage Doodle on Google. The cartoon Puente is featured waving a Puerto Rican flag over his drum set, with a ‘Play’ button beckoning you to press it. When you do, you are taken to a minute-long animation that features an artistic celebration of Puente’s influence on the culture. Beneath the image, there is an invitation to understand the history of why Puente was chosen. The link brings you to a Youtube video featuring an interview with Tito Puente Jr.,  who discusses his father's legacy at length, as well as Carlos Aponte, the animator of the Tito Puente feature, who discusses the inspiration behind the animation he created. 

Read more: Dolores Del Rio, Hollywood’s First Mexican Superstar

El Rey de los Timbales (The Mambo King) was more than a musician. He was a living, breathing celebration of Latin culture. Puente was a reason to be proud of your heritage, no matter which version of Latin you were. He was a constant celebration of everything exciting, harmonic, symphonic, and musical about Latinos. Puente was an encapsulation of the beauty of our birthright. 

¡Que viva Tito Puente! 

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By Liv Styler

Olivia Monahan Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.