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Book cover
The People's Poet
Life and Myth of Ismael Rivera, an Afro-Caribbean Icon
Rosa Elena Carrasquillo, associate professor Caribbean, Latin American and Latino History, College of the Holy Cross
Book excerpt:
"After 1950...Puerto Ricans preferred 'authentic' expressions of Puerto Ricanness in music, and the plenas of Ismael and Cortijo's Combo gained in popularity...with a more frican 'feeling.

Bomba music was not considered commercially viable because it was associated with slave rebellions or with slaves and their descendants, hence bomba was deemed unworthy of commercial consideration. Rafael Cortijo and Ismael transformed the musical scene by introducing some aspects of bomba that appealed to all audiences. Using Cuban tumbadores, rather than the bomba barrel drums, Rafael and Ismael incorporated one bomba style, the sica, into their repertoire. No other musical group experimented with bomba until the 1990s....

In this sense, Puerto Ricans of different racial and social backgrounds appropriated black Puerto Rican culture in defining what was Puerto Rican. It is a phenomenon that has counterparts in other areas of the Caribbean where African elements were adapted to express national sentiment against U.S. imperialism....The new sound reflected the contradictions of being black in Puerto Rico. Like most of twentieth-century Latin America, Puerto Rico boasted of a racial democracy while at the same time maintaining rigid racial codes legitimizing racism. Although laws did not support racial segregation in public spaces, separation of the races was sustained by custom, tradition, prejudice, and money.

October 2014, Caribbean Studies Press, 260pp, 75 black & white illustrations, softcover
ISBN 978-1-62632-197-7 Cat # CSP1977
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