There exists an endless amount of beautiful patterns and rhythms in Afro-Cuban Music. As musicians, we eventually realize that learning pattern after pattern does not give us the depth we crave.
We often forget to dig deep into how the various rhythms actually work together in rhythmic harmony to create their overall effect.
Through years of study and teaching with this idea in mind, I have developed an approach that has proven very successful for myself and my students.
After internalizing the fundamentals, we learn the basic parts for a variety of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Each step of the way we look at how each part relates to the basic 2-3 polyrhythm, the Clave, and the other ensemble rhythms.
It is also important to step outside the specific rhythms from time to time and look at the "bigger picture", such as polyrhythms in general, tension and release, gravity, and phrasing.