Cabaret singer and actress Monica Boyar was born Argentina Mercedes María Gonzalez Morel Valerio Urea in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic on December 20, 1920. She died on October 2, 2013 at the age of 92 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her life in the United States began in 1928, when at the age of 6, she migrated to the United States with her parents and settled in New York City.
At the time of her family’s arrival, New York City was experiencing an influx of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries. By 1930, there were 7,000 people from Mexico in New York City, 29,000 from Central and South America, 23,000 from Cuba and the West Indies, and 23,000 from Spain. Puerto Ricans, however, were the largest Spanish-speaking group in the city, numbering 54,000 people.
New York City’s rapidly growing Spanish-speaking community directly influenced the city’s arts and culture scene. During Boyar’s childhood, dance forms like the rhumba and Latin jazz became wildly popular.
Boyar’s interest in the arts began early in her education. She attended Manhattanville Junior High School and Textile High School. At the age of 12, she performed with her school’s choral group at the Metropolitan Opera House, and participated in various student theater productions.
Following the death of her mother, Boyar’s interests in music and theater became sources of income to support the family. While most working class Latinas in northeastern cities such as New York City worked in industrial settings during the 1930s and 1940s, Boyar’s career took shape in spaces typically inaccessible for immigrants and people of color. She performed in nightclubs throughout the New York metropolitan region, including La Conga and Casa Seville. Her reputation as a Dominican entertainer flourished, receiving glowing reviews along the way. Among Boyar’s various accolades, was a 1946 review in the New York Daily Mirror, which called her the “Satin Latin,” and described her as “America’s Newest Discovery.” Boyar was also described as “tall, olive-complexioned and slim. Her hair is forty inches long. Her eyes are light brown when in good spirits, almost black when annoyed. Her mouth, sensuous and pouting, quick to express an opinion. Her hands are as much a part of her songs as the very lyrics and music she is feeling. She is an exciting performer to watch as you experience her constantly changing moods.”
Boyar gained national and international recognition throughout the 1930s and 1940s as mambo and merengue gained popularity in mainstream society. In 1939, during the New York World’s Fair, Boyar taught icon Arthur Murray how to dance merengue. During World War II, she performed in USO Camp shows and recorded Dominican folk songs for the Library for the Music of the World.
During this period, the cultural landscape of the Americas was changing in terms of sound and movement. Dominican artists such as Boyar were at the center of this dynamic shift for both the United States and the Dominican Republic.
Urban areas like New York City became Dominican cultural incubators. The music brought by Dominican migrants was exchanged, shared, and changed by Dominican artists performing alongside African Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean musicians. The sound and rhythm, while Dominican in their origin, transformed into something new that incorporated the experience of both, the U.S.’s and the immigrant’s.
As the dictatorship continued after World War II, Dominican artists contributed to the growing anti-Trujillista movement through their music. After her second husband, Federico “Gugú” Henríquez Vázquez, was captured and killed for attempting to overthrow Trujillo during the 1949 Luperón Expedition, Boyar’s music became a deeply personal act of resistance when she recorded two anti-Trujillista songs: “Santo Domingo” and “Chapita fue a la guerra.”
After her husband’s execution by the Trujillo regime, Boyar would eventually disappear from the Dominican music scene, though she would continue her artistic career in mainstream society.
 New York Historical Society. Nueva York: 1613-1945 Classroom Materials. http://www.nuevayork-exhibition.org/pdf/NuevaYorkClassroomMaterials.pdf. Accessed 1 October, 2019.
 Ruíz, Vicki L. and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, ed. “Introduction: A Historical and Regional Overview.” Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006, p. 10
 Tatar, Ben. “Boyar, Monica (1920).” Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006, 95.