This dance like the Calypso is born in time of slavery. To avoid the escape of black slaves working in the cultivation of lands, their masters used to tie one of their legs with a heavy ball of iron metal. During their labour, they used to hear sometimes bits of music from neighbour habitations, which exhorted them to dance in spite of the chains by dragging the iron ball with the attached leg.
Nowadays, Merengue is the national dance of the Dominican Republic, and also to some extent of Haïti. Not only is the Merengue used on every occasion in the Dominican Republic, but it is very popular throughout the Caribbean and South-America, and is one of the standard Latin-American dances in the USA. Although born in very painful circumstances, the dance is executed at a cheerful music. Merengue was played in New York as early as the 1940’s, gradually becoming a part of the Latin scene. The music has more recently evolved into an international phenomenon, with bands such as Juan Luis Guerra’s 4.40 popularizing its simple, easy-to-follow beat. Merengue is in 2/4 time, with 55 to 60 beats to the bar.