Arts / African Influence in Puerto Rican Music
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The Spain of the Conquest is Mulatto

Versión español
José Campeche ( 1752-1809 )
The Spain that discovered, conquered, occupied and Christianized the Americas was mulatto. Spanish subjects of various social strata arrived in the New World: black Spaniards such as Francisco Mexias, his wife, Violante González and son, Antón Mexias, with a royal commission to rule over Taínos and ownership of black and Indian slaves; Juan Garrido, a soldier, and Francisco Piñón, a miner and owner of slaves, as well as a holder of a royal commission; Diego Hernández, a domestic servant; Juan Medina, miner; Juan Blanco, pirate; Iseo Rodríguez, a dark-skinned mulatto accused of practicing witchcraft; Cristina Hernández, a black accused of living as a concubine with a sexton in the city of Caparra in Leon; and Marina, a domestic worker and cook accused of hitting a white woman while washing clothes in the river.


This first branch of African culture on the island, of Afro-Andalusian origin, initiated the passage of music between the Caribbean and Europe and produced the first known global/trans-Atlantic musical genres: the zarabanda, the chacona, the guineo, the ye-ye and the zarambeque. By the end of the 16th century, a hundred years after the beginning of the occupation and settlement of Boriquén by the Iberians, a bishop, Dr. Francisco Naranjo, declined the offer of being named bishop of Puerto Rico because he was too old to occupy the position. To demonstrate that, he wrote in his letter that if he accepted the post he would have to dance the portorrico, but because of his age he could not dance. The candidate for bishop was referring to one of the first Afro-Caribbean dances that became popular in the first century of colonization: a dance created by blacks and named for its origin, the portorrico. These dances and music, which were adopted in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean, and in Andalusia, dominated the theatertheater: A literary genre generally containing dialogue and created for the purpose of being performed on a stage before an audience., religious festivals, civic celebrations and public and private merriment during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The presence of African slaves brought directly from the western region of the continent added a second branch to the Puerto Rican musical culture. These Africans, like their contemporaries, made melodic instruments as well as drums. During the 17th century, black Puerto Ricans were associated with playing the harp and other string instruments such as the lute and the guitar. The construction of these types of instruments by Afro-Puerto Ricans in the 18th and 19th centuries is documented, but historically their contribution in this area has not been recognized.

Between the 17th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the figures of Domingo Andino and José Campeche show the playing of music as the work of craftsmen. Andino, a silversmith by trade, played the organ at the San Juan Cathedral. Campeche was a painter, in addition to playing the oboe and the organ and teaching music. These Afro-Puerto Ricans are examples of the professional musicians and teachers who arose on the island and developed among themselves both deep professional and family ties. Domingo Andino was not only José Campeche's organ teacher, but also his brother-in-law. An effort in 1749 to limit the participation of mulattos in the orchestra of the San Juan Cathedral points to the strong presence of Afro-Puerto Ricans in the ranks of professional musicians. The significance of this date is that it marks the death of a prominent Afro-Puerto Rican after a cruel persecution by the white aristocracy. During the second half of the 18th century, there was a hardening of attitudes toward Afro-Puerto Ricans.






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