U.S. Metropolitan Bridges to Puerto Rican Music Identity; Cuban and Puerto Rican Music Connections from the 1920's-1970's

William George Johnson

Document Type Article


“Cuba and Puerto Rico are As two wings of the same bird, They receive flowers and bullets Into the same heart ...” (Lola Rodriguez de Tio, 1868) Puerto Rican poet and political activist Lola Rodriguez de Tio penned these words after being inspired by the call for the independence of Puerto Rico. Her words were further canonized in Puerto Rican cultural identity after being published in the song La Borinquena by composer Rafael Hernandez. Hernandez’s song would later become a musical symbol of national identity for the island of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Diaspora. The connection between the two islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba emerge as constant themes throughout contemporary culture. They are often manifested as the evolution of unique Puerto Rican characteristics of music that was imported from Cuba. Although both islands have shared musical influences with one another through diverse channels of distribution, this study focuses on the impact US metropolitan regions such as New York have had upon the Puerto Rican adoption of Cuban music. In order to understand the musical influence of US mainland upon the Puerto Rican Diaspora concerning Cuban music research was concentrated into six major overarching themes. These themes deal with channels of music distribution (i.e. radio, music stores, promoters, etc.) venues and associations, national cultural identity, historical significance, migration, and socio-economics. This research primarily deals with the era of the 20th century primarily between the timeframe of the 1920’s to the 1970’s. By exploring these themes this study largely deals with the existence of the unique musical relationship Cuba and Puerto Rico share in contrast with other Latin American nations and territories. There is a definite distinction between the two musical worlds, however through years of migration and musical genre evolutions, the boundaries between them are at times blurred, at least on a superficial level.