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 started to clean the house, dancing and prancing through each room.  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 139th 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 139th 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. Betty 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 and the jittle-bug dance. I told my parents that I was performing in school and I had two free tickets 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 had12 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. No one knew that i was taking dance lessons and was not attending the piano classes my dad registered me in.

     In the early 60‘s, it was not common for and women and or girls to be showing too much legs. 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, from 1974-1978, 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 working at the Roberto Clemente State Park as a assist. gymnastic coach and in the ladies locker room.

   

       Through-out my dance career with Ms. Betty Scott Collins, I performed through out many of the cities, park events, nursing homes, performed in plays. I dance with Mrs. Betty Scott and the group for about 15 years.

  

      Before I first went to Eddie’s class, his sister-in-law Silvia told me come and check out this instructor classes. She kept telling me that he teaches well, dances well, and the class was growing. I kept giving her excuses in not going and or attending the class until, one October day, 1978, I went upstairs to the second floor just to see. And from there, I haven’t turned back. :-DDDDDD Eddie would share many of his dreams and ideas to the class and   would tell them that he would like to take this dancing all around the world, dance with the Legendary Mr. Tito Puente, and perform at the White House for the President of the United States. Out of 40 of the students that were taking classes with Eddie, 39 thought that he was out of his mind. There was no market for professional latin dancers, yet alone spreading this dance world wide. I stood at the class as the class was over and asked me, so what do I think, I told Eddie, “Lets give it a try!!”

       Eddie knew all of the clubs and events where

the Legendary Tito Puente would perform. Eddie took me to Christopher’s Club where Tito played with his band. When Tito arrived, Eddie went up to Tito and asked if he remembers him. Tito responded, of course, you’re the dancer that was always dancing in front of me. Eddie asked if we can audition for him, and Tito responded, “Eddie, I don’t have the time. Tito said, talk to my music director Jimmy and tell him exactly what you need and the songs and I will present you in my next concert.” Eddie was stun to know that Tito would give that opportunity without first an audition.

    At first, Eddie drove me crazy because he was excited to perform with Tito, and this was his life long dream. But since I was already dancing on stage since I was 4 years old, I was ready. The day came, we headed towards the coliseum on 60th and B’way, where Tito and his band where involved in an expo event. I felt ready, Eddie was a nervous reck!!!! Eddie stressing me, and telling me, “ We have to dance like never before! This is our big and only opportunity, and he didn’t wanted to blow it!” Thank GOD, I heard Eddie, but kept my cool.

       We performed the first routine, El Cayuco, dressed in white with white fringes down our arm. Tito was smiling, throughout the performance. We went to the back, and changed costume to perform “Palladium

days” (Puente’s Nightmare), as Mr.Puente originally called it.

     We finished, and Eddie was so nervous, he got sick afterwards. We got dressed right away, and Eddie ran out to see if Tito liked us or not. Tito was already gone, because he had another show to do. So Eddie asked Jimmy, and Jimmy said, Tito didn’t say anything to him, but that Jimmy himself enjoyed it. That was the beginning of our career of Eddie’s destiny and my dream come true.

      Wherever Tito played and performed, we would have the costumes in our truck of the car ready, and when we showed up, Tito would say, “Eddie, do you have your outfits with you, and Eddie said, YES TITO!” And Tito would asked us to get dress to perform with him and his orquestra. For the first 5 years, We went anywhere and everywhere with Tito Puente and were know as “The Tito Puente Dancers”.

Maria Torres