Puerto Ricans and Music

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Puerto Ricans and Music

Puerto Ricans have music in their spirit and in their souls. It seems to be ever present in their lives from their childhood and sweetens their very existence. Since I was young, I can remember the music playing all night, while my family ignored the time and enjoyed each other's company. Music is a part of every Puerto Rican because it is embedded in our culture. It has become a cultural symbol for Puerto Ricans, and Latin Americans in general. In polls conducted concerning major signifiers of Puerto Rican identity, the three major political parties of Puerto Rico consistently ranked music behind only the Spanish language and food [1]. Although music is ranked as one of the most important parts of being Puerto Rican, North Americans usually give little thought to the cultural wealth produced by the Island. In fact, in searching for an explanation for the `persistently low socioeconomic status of many Puerto Ricans' , some scholars have blamed the island's cultural deficit as a reason for many of it's problems. Nathan Glazer and Daniel Moynihan contend that “Puerto Rican heritage is weak in folk arts, unsure in it's cultural traditions, [and] without a powerful faith. [2]” How is it possible that Puerto Rican music, given it's importance in everyday life, be viewed as a cultural deficit?

Within this cultural symbol of Puerto Ricans, there are many different types and styles, and along with these different styles come many different audiences, who all happen to be Puerto Rican. The different styles catered to the particular tastes, but they all fell under the umbrella of Puerto Rican music. For example, while some people celebrated the plena and `embraced the wealth of the many musical forms, others...

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...ther it's the rhythmic beating of bomba, or the raspy rhythm of plena, you can not deny the `puerto rican-ness' of either. Rather than being a `unifying source in a dividing ethnic community, music itself is an ongoing source of diverse definitions for Puerto Rican identity.' [7] Music is just a reflection of a culture, and in this case, a reflection of a people with varying and ever-evolving ideas about their cultural identity.


[1] Morris, Nancy. Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics, and Identity. Praeger Publishers.

Westport, CT. (1995) Pages 71-72.

[2] Glasser, Ruth. My Music is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and their New York

Communities 1917- 1940. University of California Press, Los Angeles. (1995) Page 3.

[3] Glasser. Page 9.

[4] Glasser. Page 3.

[5] Glasser. Page 4.

[6] Glasser. Page 194.

[7] Glasser. Page 9.
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