A recently formed alliance called the Latin Connection Family has created a buzz by fusing more traditional nightlife tracks with velocity-gaining Latino vibes.
On a typical Friday or Saturday night at Cuba Libre, hundreds of revelers can be seen dancing and partying behind a blend of high-energy Latin hits and more traditional top-40 sounds, eventually spilling into the Quarter at Tropicana shortly before the sun comes up.
The force behind the fun is a team of DJs who sought not only to fill a void among a growing population of young Latino revelers, but to create a sort of cross-cultural mash-up that attracts partiers of all ethnicities.
The group is called Latin Connection Family and was created by Brooklyn-born Ariel “DJ Decybals” Monzon, who now resides in suburban Philadelphia. It includes about a dozen members with club residencies in several metropolitan areas, each of whom brings special-guest performers to their respective gigs and acts as more of an “entertainment ambassador” than a typical DJ.
Along with Atlantic City and Philadelphia, Latin Connection spans the areas of Baltimore/Washington D.C., the Lehigh Valley, New York City and parts of Virginia. They’ve also been hired for individual gigs, festivals and private parties up and down the East Coast, and as far south as Texas.
“We’re more like a full-fledged nightlife company, not just a DJ crew,” says Monzon. “A lot of people don’t think of the Latin community being as big as it is, but consider that a large section of the casino industry are Latino service workers who like to go out and have fun.
"If you look at the Tropicana [Cuba Libre], we’re usually open to 4am with 500 people in there, and we retain a lot of people because we’re bilingual. If I play just Latin music in a traditional nightclub, the likelihood is a lot people would walk out, but if I mix 10 Spanish songs with 10 English songs, chances are you’re going to stay whether you’re Latin, black, white, Asian or whatever. We cater to so much variety.”
Monzon is a lifelong music enthusiast who interned at Metropolis Studios in East Harlem, New York City — the producer of 106 & Park and other hit shows on the BET network. After meeting his future wife in NYC and moving to Lansdale, Pa., he rejoined the entertainment scene as DJ Decybals in late 2007 and was brought onboard in 2010 by the prestigious Bum Squad DJs — an international assemblage with a highly organized business model.
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“[Cuba Libre] didn’t want to be in nightlife anymore,” says Kauffman. “They just opened in Washington [DC] and Orlando and will soon be opening in Boston and Chicago, and really just wanted to get out of nightlife in general. So they offered [32 Degrees] to us and we just jumped on it.”
Atlantic City’s outpost of Cuba Libre — in Tropicana’s Havana-themed Quarter — completed an extensive reworking of its bill of fare earlier this summer. These changes reflect the personal experiences of chef/partner Guillermo Pernot during several extended visits to that long-forbidden Caribbean island.
In New Orleans, the colorful annual street festival is called Mardi Gras. In Cuba and other Latin nations, including Brazil, it is known as Carnivale. The Tropicana, in honor of its Latin-themed Quarter, presents its second annual Festival Carnivale de Tropicana on Friday, Jan. 28 from 6-10pm.
Atlantic City's Tropicana-based district called The Quarter possesses a pulsing Latino heart known better as Cuba Libre. The complex sprawls across two levels, connected by a panoramic, winding staircase, which offers views of the entire restaurant and beyond. Designed to reflect the pre-Castro era of the Cari
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