Daniel Santos: 100 Years of the “Inquieto” Legacy


Daniel Santos legacy to Latin music is marked by both, his versatile talent on stage, and his controversial personality off stage.

Born in February 5, 1916, this month marks the 100th anniversary of the “Inquieto Anacobero” birthday. Just for reference, Daniel Santos died on November 27, 1992, at the age of 76.

His most famous nicknames provide a good glimpse of how Daniel Santos lived his life. “El Jefe” reflects the strong personality and charisma he had on stage. “El Inquieto Anacobero” speaks of his propensity as a trouble-maker, womanizer, and his polarizing personality.

“El Jefe” Unique Singing Style

Like many music fans in Latin America, what I liked most about Daniel Santos was his unique singing style. His voice had a unique tone, and his phrasing was choppy; he pronounced the words almost syllable by syllable, stretching the last vocal of a verse.

Unique Singing Style – There is a story of how Daniel Santos developed this singing style, and it goes like this. It is said that during the recording session of “Despedida” (one of Daniel’s greatest hits), he was almost in tears since he had been recently drafted and was about to experience a similar fate to the one the song described.

While holding back tears, a friend at the studio began mocking him. Santos became so upset that he began delivering the lyrics in a chopped manner, breaking down almost every syllable, but stretching the last vowel of every verse. Pedro Flores, who authored the song and led the Cuarteto Flores, to which Daniel Santos belonged at the time, encouraged Daniel to adopt this style, which Santos did. And as we like to say, the rest is history!

Versatile Singer – Daniel Santos is mostly remembered for his Boleros, and although true, that undermines his enormous talent. Santos could sing just about everything. Boleros, Guarachas, Rumbas, Tangos, Son Montunos, Cumbias, and even Rancheras were all within the grasp of the man born in the Tras Talleres sector of Santurce, Puerto Rico (notably popularized by also being the birthplace of Andy Montañez). The ability to sing so many genres, and sing them well, is a lost art these days, where singers specialize in one or perhaps two genres.

Charismatic personality – Because of his ability to sing almost anything, and his charismatic personality, Daniel Santos was loved in many countries in Latin America. New York, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, and his native Puerto Rico adored Daniel Santos.

Nicknamed “El Jefe” in Colombia – I never had the opportunity to watch Daniel Santos performing “live”, but I did see him perform live in television. He knew what he was doing and how he wanted things to come out. In my readings about Santos, I learned that although he was quite informal, he did wanted things done a certain way. Perhaps it was for his personal charisma and strong personality, that people in Colombia nicknamed him “El Jefe”, a nickname that would stay with him.

The Tireless Daniel Santos “Inquieto Anacobero “

Party animal – Before he was known as “El Jefe”, Cuba had decided to nickname him “El Inquieto Anacobero”. Here’s how that happened.

Daniel Santos and Sonora Matancera album cover
Daniel Santos time in Cuba was very important for his career, a time highlighted by his association with the Sonora Matancera.

Very early in his career, in the early to mid-40’s, while being based in New York, Daniel grew an interest to visit Cuba. This might have been influenced by the Cubans that moved to New York during those years.

Remember that musicians like Machito, Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo, Mongo Santamaria, Jose Fajardo, and many others had been moving from Cuba to New York during the 40’s. Cuba, was also prospering economically, with groups like Arsenio Rodriguez and La Sonora Matancera doing quite well.

Time in Cuba – Daniel finally visited and started working in Cuba. As is well known, he joined the Sonora Matancera in 1948, joining fellow Puerto Rican Myrta Silva as singer of the group. This would be the 2nd time Silva and Santos would share singing duties. They first did that years before in New York within Pedro Flores; Cuarteto Flores.

Daniel Santos liked the happy life, adopting drinking and women as his main hobbies. It is said that he officially married 12 times, but it’s well know he had many more love affairs, frequently with several occuring simultaneously.

Because of his mercurial temper and bohemian lifestyle, Cubans quickly nicknamed Daniel Santos as “Inquieto Anacobero”. But despite his famous temper, it seems he was able to find a way into people’s hearts.

What does “Anacobero” mean? I don’t know about you, but I always wondered what “Anacobero” meant. So, since I decided to write a blog about Daniel Santos, I did a little research and finally found what it means. “Anacobero” is Cuban slang for someone that carries a bohemian or devilish life. The term most certainly fitted Daniel Santos perfectly.

An Important Latin Music Artist

Daniel Santos was not only a talented artist, but also an important one in Latin music. He was very transparent about his way of life and even about his political beliefs, which also caused him some trouble.

Had Daniel Santos lived in a more measured way, who knows how high his fame and fortune would have been had he managed his career and life more seriously.

With all his virtues and defects, Daniel Santos was mostly loved by millions of music fans in Latin America. Whether one may like him or not, Daniel Santos plays an important part of the legacy of Latin music.


  1. Dani says

    Hi Hector,

    Thanks for the insightful background on Daniel Santos, the artist and also my dad. Your blog is interesting and accurate. Great posting! I recommend obtaining Latin American music information from La Fundacion para la Cultura Nacional in San Juan, PR. I think it would be a great networking opportunity for you.

    Regards, Danilu Santos

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Hi Dani,
      I’m glad you like my post on your dad Daniel Santos. He was one of our musical greats. Regarding your suggestion, I recently visited for the first time the Fundacion Nacional para la Cultura Popular in Old San Juan. I visited with my wife Ivonne and we really enjoyed it there! I bought a book on the Trio Los Panchos there.


  2. Anonymous says

    Do you know is there a movie about Daniel Santos?

  3. Ruben Lopez says

    Is there a movie about Daniel Santos?

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Hi Ruben,
      I haven’t checked, but I’m almost sure there’s at least a documentary on Daniel Santos life somewhere in YouTube.

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