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Personal tribute to salsiologist Vernon Boggs

Profile: Vernon Boggs, A Personal Hero

by Sarah Streng


EDITORS NOTE: We received a lot of mail responding to our memorial of Dr. Vernon Boggs (Descarga Newsletter #17). This letter seems to speak for all who wrote in.

Dear All Of Vernon Bogg's Friends, Hi!

My name is Sarah Streng. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I wanted to write you a letter about how much Vernon meant to me. I only met him once in person but I talked to him on the phone before I met him and corresponded with him by mail after meeting him. Over the past two years Vernon has become one of my personal heroes.

I first learned of Vernon Boggs at the beginning of 1993 as a senior in college. I was writing my honors thesis on multiculturalism/cultural crossing in the arts and Salsa. I saw Vernon's name under the heading salsiology in a Latin Beat magazine. After ordering and reading his book, I decided to call him up for some help with my research. We ended up talking on the phone a lot. He told me about some of his salsa theories and also about the New York scene, his trips to Cuba, and a bit about his life. He really helped me out with my paper And he really inspired me.

Last January I was in Boston for a relative's wedding. Before my trip I decided I would also go to New York to meet Vernon, a personal hero.

Anyhow I called Vernon while I was in New York and we had a great time. He took me to a restaurant called Taza de Oro where we ate lots of pasteles and tostones and arroz and habichuelas. Then we went to the Club Zanzibar to listen to African music.

Vernon was great. Since salsa was what had brought us together, that's where I thought most of our conversation would go. We talked about the music, the dance, and where I should go dance while I was in the Big Apple. But we also talked about our dreams, our families, the paths of our lives, and our loves. What made me feel so inspired by and connected to Vernon was his beautiful spirit and love of humanness which he shared with me - and I imagine he shared this with everyone whose life he touched. He was so warm and passionate about life and people.

Before we left the Zanzibar that night Vernon thanked me for being his "fan" and handed me a bagful of music - mostly Swedish salsa. I now listen to the music he gave me all the time and think of him.

I will never forget saying goodbye to him that snowy night. He seemed sad to part and said "Bye, fan" with a big hug when a taxi pulled over to take me home.

After I left New York, Vernon and I corresponded by mail. He is a wonderful letter writer. I was going through a difficult time in my life this summer. Vernon wrote me the most thoughtful and loving letter I have ever received. I slept with his letter under my pillow for three weeks.

At the end of last week I was coming home from a work trip in Southern New Mexico (I interview women all over the state for a research project about breast cancer). On my way home I started talking to Vernon out loud. He listens.

When I got home my latest issue of Descarga had arrived and this is how I learned of Vernon's death. I feel such a loss.

But I am writing to tell you that I love Vernon and he has been so inspirational to me. I am so glad that he is a part of my life. Last Friday I dedicated part of the salsa show (it's aired on Friday nights here) to Vernon with some music by Joe Cuba. There are others in New Mexico who will miss him too.

I am going to frame the picture that Vernon sent me of himself and Tito Puente to put over my bed.

Vernon lives on in my heart and my spirit. Thank you for paying tribute to such a wonderful person. I will never forget.


Sarah Streng

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