As Puerto Rican and Cuban migration surged in the 1930s, the U.S. saw its first major Latin music and dance craze. New York ballrooms exploded with the sounds of “rhumba”, a version of Afro-Cuban son adapted for East Coast ballrooms. The rhumba craze took over the nation in the early 1930s with stars dancing to the rhythm in Hollywood films. Rhumba music played on mainstream radio and its popularity rose significantly in New York dance venues. In the same decade, swing started to crystallize into a bona fide genre. The 1930s were also a significant decade for the later development of Latin jazz, as several key figures from the Spanish Caribbean arrived in New York and were exposed to the genre for the first time. Some have argued that a handful of Dominican artists contributed to the rhumba, swing, and Latin jazz movements, though their contributions are largely overlooked because documentation of this history has solely acknowledged the participation and contributions of Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians. The Santo Domingo Serenaders and Napoleón and his Alhambra Ramblers, below, may be representative of Dominican musicians who contributed to the development of Latin jazz and rhumba in New York City.
"The Santo Domingo Serenaders, led by saxophonist Enrique "Nino" Duran, were regulars in New York's dance club scene during the 1930s, boasting a residency at the Savoy Ballroom from 1930-1934..."
The Santo Domingo Serenaders, led by saxophonist Enrique "Nino" Duran, were regulars in New York's dance club scene during the 1930s, boasting a residency at the Savoy Ballroom from 1930-1934. Formed in 1929, the jazz-oriented band composed mostly of Dominicans, but also included Cubans, Panamanians, African Americans, and West Indians who played during the pre-swing era interpreting various ballroom styles like foxtrot and rhumba. Dominican founding director Enrique Durán and bandmates Napoleón Zayas and Gus Dorival, also Dominicans, were early collaborators of Mario Bauzá, the celebrated Cuban composer, arranger, and master bandleader who is widely credited with introducing Afro-Cuban rhythms to jazz pioneers Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie. Bauzá's cousin, trumpeter Rene Edreira, introduced him to the Serenaders when he first arrived in Manhattan from Cuba in 1930. Bauzá ended up playing with the Serenaders and in 1932, he moved in with Zayas and Durán.
"Napoleón and his Alhambra Ramblers, headed up by bandleader Napoleón Zayas, drew crowds at several Harlem ballrooms in the early 1930s..."
Napoleón and his Alhambra Ramblers, headed up by bandleader Napoleón Zayas, drew crowds at several Harlem ballrooms in the early 1930s. The group took its name from a two-year residency as the house band at the Harlem Alhambra Ballroom. A 1931 New York Age article cites them as popular performers in several Harlem venues who "promise to introduce some new ideas into the rhumba rhythm that is the prevailing craze," which might suggest the group was experimenting with ether jazz or Dominican styles that were unfamiliar to English speaking audiences. 
Eduardo Brito and his wife Rosa Elena Bobadilla, two vocalists of Grupo Dominicano (which disbanded in the late 1920s after several members returned to the Dominican Republic), garnered popularity singing in venues across Manhattan. The husband-and-wife duo brought their emotive bolero, vals, danzón, and criollo compositions to the Hurtig & Seamon's New Burlesque Theater in March 1930. Earlier that year, one of the first Dominican cultural organizations established in the U.S., Asociación Cívica Dominicana Hijos de Duarte, invited Brito and Bobadilla to sing at an event celebrating Dominican Independence Day.  In 1931, they appeared at restaurants and cabarets like Manhattan Playhouse, Casa de España, Hispanic American Center, and the Pan American Union. Brito regularly performed as a soloist (click here to listen to recordings 1 and 2) and as part of a crew called Cuarteto Brito. From February 23rd until February 27th, 1932, Brito performed nightly in the Havana Fiesta Royal and at the Empire Room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
"...From February 23rd until February 27th, 1932, Brito performed nightly in the Havana Fiesta Royal and at the Empire Room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel."
In 1935, pianist Luis Herrero arrived in the United States from La Romana, Dominican Republic. After establishing himself in the city, Herrero formed an orchestra of fourteen Puerto Rican musicians, calling the group Luis Herrero and His Serenaders. Herrero worked at prominent venues like the Cotton Club and the Stork Club. In 1937, Luis Herrero renamed the group Luis Herrero y su Orquesta Dominicana (click here to listen). Without a doubt, the move to rename the orchestra anticipated a niche in the music market. The renaming is also a testament to the fact that Dominican musicians remained proud of their cultural legacy and national identity, at a time when Puerto Ricans and Cubans dominated the Latin music scene. Luis Herrero would sign a recording contract with RCA Victor that same year and received an invitation from the Dominican Government to represent the Dominican Republic in the New York World’s Fair of 1940.
There is evidence of a handful of other Dominican performers touring through or recording in New York. Ramón E. García was a resident at the Cuban Casino in Midtown Manhattan in 1936. Vocalists like Julliard alum Rafael Sánchez Cestero performed in the city, as well as José A. Casilla, a singer and composer who collaborated with Antonio Mesa. In 1932, Casilla wrote a patriotic song titled "A Quisqueya" that was recorded by Canario y su Grupo, the Puerto Rican band led by Manuel "Canario" Jiménez, an original member of Trio Borinquen whom Antonio Mesa replaced.
"1939 marked a historic moment for the development of merengue in particular, as the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows hosted a sixteen piece Dominican orchestra, led by José G. Ramírez Peralta..."
1939 marked a historic moment for the development of merengue in particular, as the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows hosted a sixteen piece Dominican orchestra, led by José G. Ramírez Peralta, and a merengue dance performed by señorita Argentina Mercedes Gonzalez Morel later known as Monica Boyar. Gonzalez Morel performed with a group of dancers from the famous Arthur Murray studios. In 1940, the second year of the World’s Fair, Rafael Petitón Guzmán, a composer born in Salcedo, who had been living in New York since 1935 and had been making waves in the Latin music scene, played the piano with Lira Dominicana (click to listen to recordings 1, 2, 3, and 4) an orchestra he led which like Mesa’s Trio Quisqueya, also had non-Dominican musicians.
*** Early musicians typically played in the U.S. as part of a tour or recording session, and a few of them came to study music, with some attending the most prestigious schools, such as Juilliard. When Dictator Rafael L. Trujillo rose to power in 1930, musicians faced new restrictions on travel abroad. The government restricted travel abroad by denying passports to Dominicans. A few Dominicans of the music scene in New York City during these years belonged to a select group of artists who had no restrictions to travel and perform their craft outside of the Dominican Republic. An interesting fact is that while musicians traveling from the Dominican Republic to record in the U.S. needed to be on good terms with the Dominican government, Dominican musicians who had settled abroad and who were also recording during these years were not necessarily subjected to the same pressure.
During his first decade in office, Trujillo used every available means to consolidate his power, in complicity with those who benefited from his style of government. As the Dominican economy was structured to serve the interests of Trujillo and the upper class that supported him, whether national or foreigners, so was the rest of Dominican society, including cultural symbols. Merengue, a catchy music which had been slowly but steadily penetrating the Dominican imagination since the 19th century, was soon sanctioned by the dictatorial government as the unquestionable national music of the Dominican Republic. The government poured resources into efforts to institutionalize merengue among Dominicans on the island, as well as in popularizing it in the United States. Dominican merengue musicians played alongside Puerto Rican and other musicians, while seeking recording opportunities for their music. By the late 1930s, Dominican music was already part of a cultural infrastructure in New York City that included seasoned musicians, consumers, and an emergent Dominican community with a strong desire to share and preserve a cultural legacy.***
 The New York Age, April 25, 1931, 6.
 El álbum de Eduardo Brito. Santo Domingo: Secretaría de Estado de Educación, Bellas Artes y Cultos de la República Dominicana, 1994, 13.
 El álbum de Eduardo Brito, 21.