Maria Torres

 

     Born March, 1960 at Metropolitan Hospital. I am the oldest of four children from my mother Helen, and the sixth child from my father Benny Sr.

     Being surrounded by crafty and musical siblings, my older sister Milagros loves and listens to music, my older sister Gloria ( Loli ) worked and in Casa Blanca nightclub loved dancing, my older brother Tito played all percussion instruments (played in my other brother’s band), my brother Ricardo had his own band “Ricardo Marrero and his Orquesta” and is presently working with Ruben Blades. My older sister Carol plays and taught flute, lives in Florida. My younger sister Lillian (India) is presently a flag praise dancer, my younger sister Lorie is gifted in hand crafts and cosmetics, my youngest brother is a Navy Officer and does photography. Mami got involved in the Pleneros 21 and danced for a number of years with them.

        Growing up, my mother will always play music at home and start to clean the house. So every time we heard the music, I would take a rag, mop and start to clean swinging my long hair all around. I would probably make more of a mess than clean-up.

      My brother Ricardo and his group would come over to the house and rehearse in our living room

at 138th str. apartment and while he would rehearse, I took a liking to swing my hair and try to sing. My singing was so annoying the my dad would tried to make me do something else so that I won’t interfere.

      Dad decided to register me at a program in P.S. 49 on 138th street where they had a after school program for piano lessons where  I was going to attend kindergarden soon.

       As I taking my piano lessons, I saw a group of girls in the gym clicking their shoes with a black leotard. I ran to the gym, took off my dress and started to wiggle and swing my hair in my long slip. The teacher, Mrs. Scott saw that I follow her movements without any break-downs. I continue to take both the piano classes and the dance classes which I later founded out in was tap dancing until my recital. I told my parents that I was performing in school and I had two free for them to see me. I was extremely excited because they were going to see me play piano and dance. I never once told my parents that I was taking tap dance and jitter-bug with Mrs. Betty Scott.

     The day came of my recital, Mami combed my hair and I went to the school to get ready, there were many parents and kids performing and I was nervous about my piano playing, all I had to do was play chops. Dad was proud when he saw me played and was ready to leave when I told him that I had to performed one more time. I ran to the back and put on my little yellow dress with my bobby socks and my tap shoes Mrs. Scott gave us 12 girls. As I came on and danced, I felt great, I had a big smile on my face and knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. My dad had his arms crossed and was not smiling and my mother was next to him. When I finished, I ran to daddy and asked him, what do you think. He was upset that I was dancing and was showing my knees. In the 60’s it was not common for and women and or girls to be showing too much. Daddy told me that if I wanted to continue to do this, I had to keep my grades up in school. I was puzzled because, I was only 4 years old and was just about to start school in September and it was only June.

       As I started school, I was determined to be my very best so that I can continue dancing with Ms. Scott and the girls. So from Kindergarden through Jr. High school at Alexander Burger 141 and Lehman High School, I brought my father every certificate of every subject in school including perfect attendance.

      In Lehman High School, I took 8 classes a day, skipping lunch and ran track for 3 years, was in the dance club, captain of the boys gymnastics team, captain of the cheerleaders as well. While attending my last year in high school, I was offered a job at Roberto Clemente State Park in 1978 to help coach gymnastics, where Eddie Torres was teaching Latin dance classes.

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