Puerto Rican radio programmer Pedro Arroyo, a salsa musician and lover who founded “El Día Nacional de la Zalsa” (National Salsa Day), a massive annual concert dedicated to the genre, died Saturday in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
He was 60 years old.
A towering man who was regarded as an icon in Puerto Rico, Arroyo was a fierce defender of salsa as a genre, and in 1984, he presented the first Día Nacional de la Zalsa to celebrate the music and its artists. The event’s name had “Zalsa” spelled with an initial Z, referencing Z-93 (WZNT-FM), the SBS-owned salsa station network Arroyo programmed until his death. Arroyo also programmed other SBS-owned Puerto Rican stations, including pop network Estereotempo and Ritmo 96.
Since its launch, Día Nacional de la Zalsa’s import grew to such a degree — more than 20,000 people attend every year — that in 1990, the Puerto Rican government officially declared that the third Sunday of every month would be National Salsa Day. The event’s 29th edition took place March 25.
“Our entire team in Puerto Rico and in all markets where we have a presence recognize Pedro’s contributions to salsa and his great knowledge of the music that was his life,” said Raúl Alarcón, president and CEO of SBS. “I am committed to keeping his legacy alive through Z-93, which was his great project.”
Arroyo’s death was widely mourned by dozens of artists and executives, including Victor Manuelle, Olga Tañón and Gilberto Santa Rosa, among many others.
“Pedro Arroyo was an extraordinary professional and a close friend,” said Ruben Blades in a statement. “His love for music and for salsa as known and appreciated by all. He is irreplaceable and impossible to imitate.”
“He was one of salsa’s most important advocates, and a brother and friend to me,” wrote Victor Manuelle in his twitter account.
Arroyo, who had been suffering from pulmonary problems, collapsed while visiting family with his wife, Ana, and died of respiratory arrest. He will be buried in a private service, according to reports.