Johnny Pacheco Dies At 85

Sad day for the genre of Salsa. Johnny Pacheco has passed away. He died in New Jersey today. He was 85 years old.

Pacheco was born in the Dominican Republic. When he was 11 years old, Pacheco and his family moved to New York. Pacheco studied at the Juilliard School and worked in Latin bands before started his own.

Pacheco started Fania Records in 1964, and signed some of the biggest names in music history. Names like Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, and Ruben Blades. Pacheco worked as a flutist, songwriter, arranger, and leader of the Fania All-Stars, salsa’s first supergroup.

Rest In Peace, Johnny Pacheco! You will be dearly missed!

Raising Victor Vargas

Raising Victor Vargas is a classic Romantic/Drama independent film. I can’t believe that it took me 18 years to learn about this film.

The 2002 film is about a Dominican teenager (Victor Vargas) played by Victor Rasuk, who has nothing but girls on his mind. He is very smooth-talking with the ladies, but he falls for a cute girl (Judy Jimenez) played by Judy Marte, who is out of his league. Victor tries to do everything to get her attention. He also has to deal with his grandmother’s strictness, raising him and his two other siblings. The setting takes place in the Lower East Side. One of the things I spotted in the movie is the Hamilton Fish Pool. I’ve been to that pool twice.

I enjoyed this film for many reasons:
1) The main characters are Dominicans in real life—great all-around performances.
2) It’s a natural coming of age story that is not stereotypical. Real and heartwarming.
3) The grandmother’s chemistry with the three teenagers reminds me of my grandmother raising me and my sisters. When my parents would go to work, she would take care of us. My grandmother was strict, but not overly strict, and she was very loving.

I first discovered who Victor Rasuk was when he appeared in the movie, Feel The Noise, starring Omarion. Seeing him in this film felt like I’m watching him backward because Raising Victor Vargas came out way before Feel The Noise. This also applies to Melonie Diaz.

Melonie Diaz is a supporting actress in this film. However, I first learned about Melonie in another independent film, and the movie I’m talking about is the heartbreaking Fruitvale Station, starring Michael B. Jordan.

Melonie is a talented actress, and she’s going to continue to be around for years to come.

Raising Victor Vargas is streaming on platforms such as Netflix, Tubi, and Amazon Prime. I highly recommend you should watch this coming of age film.

***I do not own the rights to the image