Mambo dancing first gained its popularity in Cuba, after which it branched off over to New York City, where it's said to have developed its unique character. It originated around 1938, from the Cuban dance known as the danzón; mambo was one of the styles of this dance.
A dance genre, known as contradanza, arrived in Cuba during the 18th century with additions to the dance provided by Haitians traveling to Cuba. It was considered to be an impressive display of energy and movement. It took a while for mambo to gain mainstream popularity. The dance was first referred to as mambo in the 1930s, and Cachao López is considered to be the first person to record mambo music.
It has a different vibe, accredited to it in comparison with its fellow dance styles, as it has a syncopated rhythm. Its popularity rocketed once again when it was commonly used by Perez Prado, a Cuban composer, in his music. He used this influence to travel to Mexico City, where he tried to spread the popularity of mambo and created such popular songs as "María Bonita."
Another influential figure in this genre is Beny Moré, who performed several mambos that gained attention. In New York, it was during the 1950s that people started to notice the allure of the dance. Suddenly an outbreak of mambo schools took place and its popularity soared. Consequently, many big names ventured into the genre, such as Augie and Margo, Carmen Cruz and "Killer" Joe Piro.