The Salsa Wars

Casino style has become wildly popular, but the real action is taking place off the dance floor

And that was what precipitated the spat between Hurtado and Castro. Most of the interviews on were identical to pieces published weeks and months earlier on Castro says she immediately phoned Hurtado to complain, whereupon he became angry and, before hanging up, according to Castro, exclaimed: "You think you're so powerful? You're fucking with the wrong guy." (Hurtado and a friend who claims to have been with him during the conversation deny he said anything like that to Castro.)

This convinced Castro that Hurtado was the right guy for her infamous and insulting Ñó!!! Award, a takeoff on the all-purpose Cuban expletive coño and occasionally given by Castro to someone in the salsa world who had, in her opinion, been a jerk. On July 20, the day after her conversation with Hurtado, readers of found the second Ñó!!! Award. It didn't name Hurtado, but it did make his identity abundantly clear and accused him of plagiarism. "We guess we should just shrug this off as either reduced mental capacity or ignorance of the meaning of the words “Ethics' and “Integrity,'" the Ñó!!! copy read. "[The Ñó!!! recipient] told Jacira just days ago ... that his Website was “not competition' for SalsaPower because his Website only represents local schools in the South Florida area, but SalsaPower is global. We have to agree with him on the second point. We sincerely doubt, however, that the schools which his organization represents ... feel that they are well represented by a Website whose content is mostly plagiarized."

Hurtado, who maintains he published those interviews as part of a test page and subsequently removed them from as requested, insists the only person who did anything wrong in the matter was the author of the pieces, Stefan Vale. "He provided the same content to both SalsaPower and Salsa United," Hurtado protests, "and then he accuses Salsa United of publishing unauthorized materials." Vale contends that's nonsense. To assist Hurtado in developing the Website, Vale explains, he sent Hurtado several articles and interviews he'd already written, most of them as writing samples not meant for republication.

Jacira Castro says she's a salsa lover, not a commie lover
Steve Satterwhite
Jacira Castro says she's a salsa lover, not a commie lover

In any case, as of this past Monday the entire site is back under construction; the interviews in question have been removed. Also gone is the Ñó!, Que Comemierda Award that appeared on the day after the original Ñó!!! Award went online. Not surprisingly the Ñó!, Que Comemierda went to Castro, and this time there was no reluctance to name names. The unsigned text of the award asserted: "She assumed that I plagiarized content from her site and proceeded to slander me on the SalsaPower Website."

Then the next day was hacked. According to the Internet-provider logs Castro later obtained, someone with an AOL address entered the server at 10:22 p.m. Saturday, July 21. Castro doesn't know to whom the AOL address belongs, nor has she received any help so far from AOL. But she has plenty of additional leads she believes identify the hacker.

Start with the Ñó!!! Award. This page was among those turned into embarrassments for SalsaPower. The original copy chiding the unnamed salsero for his "reduced mental capacity," and alleged plagiarism was deleted and replaced by an almost comical screed proclaiming Stefan Vale the winner of the Ñó!!! Award. "Mr. Vale is an uneducated, low-class, unprofessional, immature, narrow-minded imbecile," the text stated. "Most of the interviews published by Mr. Vale are fictitious, as he never even met with some of these people...." The hacker couldn't resist a parting shot at Castro: "P.S. Personal message to Jacira: Who has the power? You're fucking with the wrong guy!"

Even more damning, after Castro figured it out, was the location of the missing graphics. On the hacked pages, where once there had been photos and graphics there now appeared blank boxes outlined in black with a tiny red "X" in the top left corner of each. When she clicked on the X's, looking for the images, Salsa United's Web address came up. "The file path to the graphics went to Salsa United's hard drive," Castro explains. "The pages from my server were uploaded to that computer, then the text was changed, then they uploaded [the pages] back to my server and overrode the correct file path for the graphics."

And another thing: The Ñó!, Que Comemierda Award on featured a photo of the recipient, Jacira Castro -- the same photo from a page on her site that was protected by JavaScript code to prevent anyone from copying the image. "This means," Castro says, "that the only way [] could have gotten that picture was while they were hacking inside the Website on the server."

She has reported all this to the FBI, but it's not certain the agency will initiate a formal investigation. "I know it's devastating to the individual who suffers the damage, but the bottom line is we just don't have enough agents to work small cases," says Miami spokeswoman Judy Orihuela, who adds that, while she knows nothing about the SalsaPower incident, extenuating circumstances sometimes prompt the bureau to pursue a case it might otherwise decline to investigate.

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