Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Marta Moreno Vega grew up to be a City University of New York professor of Afro-Caribbean religions and write a book about Santería. But in the late 1950s, she was just a young East Harlem kid curious about the Yoruban and Congolese gods and goddesses invoked by her abuela and the dance moves practiced by her Palladium-going brother. In her memoir, When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio, Moreno Vega offers a bittersweet account of the days of stickball, Tito Puente, and learning life’s lessons from a cigar-chewing grandma. Though occasionally a bit Brothers Garcia–cute—“Mi nieta, remember that time is precious,” she’s told at one point—the prose is often beautiful. Tonight, to accompany her book talk, Vega screens a documentary she filmed in Cuba and New York, which covers the African roots of the religious and secular music she loves as well as the ongoing influence of those roots on Latin jazz and Spanish-language rap. The program starts at 7 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th Street & Independence Ave. SW. Free. For reservations call (202) 287-3382. (Steve Kiviat)