The dance was introduced by African slaves brought in ships by the Spanish, who came mainly from Angola. The dance represents an erotic courtship between a male and female couple characterized by their frenetic acts towards each other. The couple dances to a fast rhythm of cumbia music also originally of the African slaves brought to Colombia. The movements are based on the Mapalé fish movements when the fish are out of the water. From Colombia, the dance spread to the South American and Central American Pacific coastline from Panama all the way down to Peru, including Ecuador.