Merengue is a Dominican folkloric dance widely spread and considered by many as the Dominican national dance. In 1844 merengue was still not popular, but in 1850 was in vogue, displacing the Tumba. From that moment on it had many detractors.
In the early 1850s, a campaign was started by local Santo Domingo newspapers defending the Tumba and attacking merengue. This campaign was a signal of the popularity merengue was taking away from Tumba.
Emilio Rodríguez Demorizi says: "Merengue origins still are foggy. It does'nt seem it can be said it originated in Haiti. Had it had that dark procedence it had'nt been in such vogue as it was in 1855, when there were such bloody battles against Haiti; Nor had it been overlooked as a reason for those who rejected the rythm. Ulises Francisco Espaillat did'nt mention it in his papers against merengue in 1875 either."
There is very little proven facts about merengue origins. In the mid-1800s, from 1838 to 1849, a dance called URPA or "UPA Habanera" (UPA from Havanna) made its way around the Caribbeann being welcomed in Puerto Rico. This dance had a movement called merengue which apparently is the way selected to call the dance as it arrived at dominican soil where it remained unknown for a few years. Later on, it was well accepted and even colonel Alfonseca wrote pieces of the new music with very popular titles like "¡Ay, Coco," "El sancocho," "El que no tiene dos pesos no baila," and "Huye Marcos Rojas que te coje la pelota."
The musical structure of what can be considered the most representative form of merengue consisted of paseo (walk), body and "jaleo." The addition of paseo to merengue in those times is wrongly attributed to Emilio Arté. All music is written at a 2 x 4 rythm and there is disagreement in the amount of beats each part should contain, because sometimes they were extended "ad infinitum."