Essay about Puerto Rican Culture

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Popular music has always been one of the central defining elements involved in forging various Caribbean national and cultural identities because of its expansion and exposure of different identities cultures and music coming together forming new genres from similar areas and the talented artists behind it all, expressing themselves through the rhythms in a matter of decades.

In order to understand the different fusions of music and how it all came about, understanding the idea of creolization is essential. Music has always been important it all started when slavery had just begun, slaves did not have anything to bear their sufferings but the rhythms inside them. Puerto Rico like Cuba was colonized by Spaniards and Africans were then sent to work in the plantations. This occurrence caused many different genres, music, culture, and even language which then became Creolization. This is where it all bloomed as Cuba started making these different dances, beats, and music. Not only the Spaniards but the Africans had music to sing their sorrows and pridefulness. This became an ongoing pattern as groups of people throughout time kept migrating from one place to another causing expansion in culture, identity, and music. . Music played a vital role in providing freedom, pride, and a voice overall.

In the 1960s after the Revolution in Cuba, a lot of people started leaving the island in waves due to the new upcoming government system being placed. Fear is what drove them, some families sent their children away due to fear of communism and the new ideology under Fidel Castro. Cuban music has already been fled across America because of the government restrictions, and talented influences like Celia Cruz had left. In Cuba, the son is one of the first rhythms that have existed which is also a fusion of African and Spanish rhythms. The songs usually contain themes like patriotism and love because artists at this time were very political due to their government, they felt free to express themselves through music. By this time the genre rumba and son were widely popular, The son brought alive the Spanish guitar and is traditionally played with congas, tres, bongos, and claves (wooden sticks). Its distinctive pattern would be the anticipated bass implemented in its rhythm. The radio broadcasts started to get more exposure, especially in West Africa and Congos and this genre called Congolese rumba appeared. Also, the bomba-son hybrid reached the talented Puerto Ricans in New York. Another genre greatly Cuba has greatly invented is the Rumba (synonym for a party) it began getting played in ballrooms as well. There specifically three styles that originated from rumba which are guaguanco, Zumba, and Columbia. Most of these performances include participation between everyone, chants, hand clapping, back-and-forth responses, and tons of body language. It’s important to note how the instruments used in rumba and in most Cuban music are a good mixture of African and Spanish. Instruments used like the claves and the tumbadores(congas) are from Africans and it is a vital instruments for rumba.

In the 1980s Cuban music is still alive, the son is a genre that still remained popular and most artists had a blend of son in their music and so forth more genres came along and elements were added into sons such as hip hop and funk. There have been bands over the years who have sparked the revival of the son genre bands such as Sierra Maestra and Septeto National. Genres like Nueva Trova have arrived and it was mainly about progressive politics and it mentions the Revolution often.

In the 1990s Cuban music expanded all over, internationally and the son is still alive but it’s just mainly fused with other elements at this point. Its Rumba style of dancing and music still lives on but it is modernized and it is more known to be performed in ballrooms.

In the 1960s Puerto Rico, there were waves of people migrating towards the Midwest. But it’s important to note the relationship between Cuba and Puerto Rico and how they were both colonized by Spain until 1898. Over time Puerto Rican people were greatly influenced by Cuba.

This new identification of jibaros was invented due to the mixtures and is an example of creole. The jibaros for a while have been considered the “traditional Puerto Rican identity” (70, Manuel). A jibaro is defining a true hard-working Puerto Rican who works on the soil. Eventually throughout time jibaros and their music died out because the popularity was not high but then some migrants brought it back alive adding Cuban rhythms to it.

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For Puerto Rico around this time, one of the most influential genres was the bomba, seis, plena, and aguinaldo. The bomba’s roots are from West Africa when slaves were brought on plantations these were the only ways they can express themselves and tell stories of their heritage. One of the most distinctive things about bomba is the relationship between the drummer and the dancer which are essential to the bomba because most of its energy is cultivated in the beat of the drum and the tempo of the dancer and they utilize this music to help them with their identity through the lyrics in these songs because it often conveys anger, political, and spiritual expression. This music traveled and evolved through slave plantations to different Caribbean regions. Its instrumentation contains this one essential guitar called el subidor. Aguinaldo is very different from bomba because they are in the form of groups and often move from house to house, singing and dancing really freely. Plena is another genre that contains Spanish, African, and also Caribbean influences. Contains more of a narrative or news reporting, especially when it comes to the lyrics of songs, either comedic or the telling of the events that were happening at that time or day.

Puerto Rican music songs then traveled up to New York, which became a huge change for music at this time. The culture of “Newyorican” culture. was introduced. Waves of Puerto Ricans were flying out to New York so eager for a new start around the 60s, people in Puerto Rico had a rough time due to poverty. Tons of them had settled in East Harlem, “some 2.8 million people of Puerto Rican descent now live on the mainland, as opposed to 3.9 million living on the island” (80, Manuel) just says a lot about the living conditions in Puerto Rico.

The cuatro instrument was and still is the ultimate icon instrument for Puerto Ricans, its instrumentations were first used by Taino Natives and runaway slaves from the 18th century.

It is important to note that most of Puerto Rico’s musical influence came from Cuba. Their relation to each other is not quite different, it just has a different name. Puerto Rico’s seis and danza similar to Cuba’s guajiro and Danzon. Reggaeton emerged around …. But its major influence came from Panama as it was the creator.

In the 60’s New York, the fluctuation of Puerto Ricans and jibaros emerged, as noted. It was not easy, being a non-English speaking immigrant at this time was very stressful and sometimes traumatic. They were exploited, harassed, and treated like fools. They were often discriminated against, which only affected how prideful they took in their identity. But they sought through that with time, artists took the opportunities in New York and their studios. Afterward, Latin bands formed which included different heritages like Mexican, Anglo, and black. The Newyoricans of this time were very young and continued to bring with them this wonderful culture. Though they did face some discrimination between other classes above them and other races they still continued and fought for reasonable treatment.

As time passed it was expected for Newyoricans to be shamed of their culture or their language but that did not happen. Music is what kept them going, singers like Tito Puentes or even Johnny Pacheco did not give in. Cuban music was still brought again but in a more modernized manner. The Cuban's son and rumba rhythms were being played by Newyorican drummers and became their symbol which they felt proud to associate with because it gave them a sense of identity through instruments. One of the biggest genres that really united Cuban and African and Puerto Rican music together was Salsa. By the 70s and ’80s, it emerged into this era of mixtures, even within instruments, the use of Puerto Rican timbales and guirpo while also using the claves which are from Africans and using similar Cuban rhythms like the mambo which got its influence from danzon. The term “salsero” was used by salsa artists to define themselves in the mix and one of the known ones would be Tito Nieves.

Salsa songs at this time dealt with a lot of love but others dealt with the lifestyle of el barrio(violence as well), and the rest addressed political messages. Throughout time it has gained great popularity, salsa leaned more toward romanticism which raised the female teen audience to listen. Salsa then got international, that’s thanks to bands that introduced the beautiful plena and bomba from Puerto Rico. It is also argued that it is the modernized version of Cuban son, because of the similar patterns, salsa is just more electrified. New York is still one of the places where salsa is getting played and danced like never before and even in the “cuchifrito circuit”.

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Essay about Puerto Rican Culture. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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