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Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Roberto Roena (born on January 16, 1938 in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico is a salsa music percussionist, orchestra leader, and dancer. Roena was one of the original members of El Gran Combo Puerto Rican's first successful salsa music orchestra. He later became the leader of his own band, "Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound", arguably one of the best Latin salsa bands in Puerto Rico. Roena has also been a long-time member of the Fania All Stars, a salsa supergroup that has enjoyed worldwide success since the 1970s. Born in the Dulces Labios neighborhood of Mayagüez, Roena took his first steps in the art of dance by staging dance routines with his brother Cuqui at his hometown. When Roberto was nine years old, his family settled in Santurce, where the brothers continued to refine their mambo and cha-cha-chá routines, delighting their public in talent contests. This led to their contract of weekly performances on the television program “La Taberna India” on WKAQ-TV. During the broadcasts, percussionist Rafael Cortijo saw Roena in action. Roena, aside from being a dancer, was a talented percussionist (bongos,cowbell) and occasional baseball player.