Places that Matter

Tropicana Club (former)

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
The Bronx's most elegant nightclub for Latin Music
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Place Matters Profile

Prior to its opening as a Latin music nightclub in the 1940s, this “tropical Paradise” in the Bronx was the Prospect Pool. In this incarnation it housed a pool on the first floor as well as a traditional Russian/Turkish shvitzbud (bath). In 1945, under the ownership of the Cuban brothers and restaurateurs Manolo and Tony Alfaro, the Tropicana evolved into the most glamorous nightclub in the Bronx. Inspired by the Tropicana Cabaret in Havana, the New York Tropicana was a mecca for audiences seeking floor shows with a chorus line, first-rate Latin dance bands and high class Cuban cuisine.

Two of the club's memorable bookings were hiring the charanga (the name used for a distinctive type of Cuban music and for the bands that play it) of Gilberto Valdés, the first known stateside charanga, and bringing Conjunto Casino from Cuba in 1953. These engagements foreshadowed the cha cha cha craze of the mid-1950s and the success of Charlie Palmieri's own charanga in the late 1950s. By the early 1960s, however, the club's glamor had begun to fade.