In the jazz world, the term "Latin jazz" gets thrown around a lot, as a sort of catch-all umbrella term, effectively lumping a slew of different styles into one category. As someone who started learning about Latin styles later in my musical development, the vague and messy categorization of these styles has always been a point of confusion.
So, one day I decided to hit the books and try to sort through the terminology. In so doing, I came up with this sort of 'cheat sheet,' mostly for my own personal study purposes. (Link at the bottom.)
Of course, as you've probably heard from your music teachers your whole life, the best way to learn about new styles is to listen, listen, listen. And that's true.
However, for me, reading about these styles (as a supplement to listening) is what has helped sort out much of the confusion with terminology and the subtle differences between styles.
Though I'm a huge proponent of just 'playing what you hear,' that's not always the most authentic/appropriate manner of playing, depending on the musical style at hand. In any genre of music there are certain conventions (rhythms, standard comping patterns, and voicings) that ought to be studied and absorbed in order to play authentically.
This is true for the Afro-Cuban and Brazilian styles I tried to cover in this 2-page sheet. It is absolutely not a comprehensive study on these styles (it is, after all, only 2 pages), but it is a starting place.
The sheet has been helpful for me in trying to wrap my head around these different styles of music, and perhaps it will be helpful for you, too. It contains mostly rhythm-focused information, but also includes some in-context examples which are geared towards piano players.
>Free access to the document: HERE