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Hernández Marín, Rafaél

As one of the most important composers of Puerto Rican popular music during the 20th century, the work of Rafaél Hernández Marin has passed the test of the time. Hernández was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico on 24 October, 1892.

His musical training began at age 12 with professors Jose Ruellán Lequerica and Jesus Figueroa. He learned to play various musical instruments including the cornet, violin, trombone, bombardino, guitar and the piano. As an adolescencent he moved to San Juan, and played with the Municipal Orchestra under the direction of Manuel Tizól.

In 1912, he composed his first song, a danza called “Maria and Victoria”, but with the arrival of World War I, the young Hernández had to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States, where he played in the Army Band.

Upon discharge from the military, he moved to New York where he met important figures from Puerto Rico, such as Luis Muñoz Marín, Luis Lloréns Torres, Luis Palés Matos and Pedro Flores. He later went to Cuba to direct the Orchestra of the Faustus Theater in Havana. After four years there, he returned to New York where he organized the Trio Borinquen. After a brief period of successes, with songs such as “Siciliana”, “Me la pagarás” and “Menéalo”, the Trio Borinquen was dissolved and Hernández founded a new group.

The new band was called Conjunto Victoria through which, Hernández had one of the most important periods of his ascending career. At the beginning of the 40’s, Hernández traveled to Mexico to fulfill a three month contract which actually lasted 16 years. In Mexico, a country that he always maintained was his second homeland, he undertook studies at the National Conservatory of Music of Mexico, from which he graduated as a teacher of harmony, composition, counterpoint.

He returned to Puerto Rico in 1953 and after several successful tours to various towns across the Island, he worked as a music consultant for the up and coming government radio station: WIPR. Between the 1956 to the 1959 he served as Honorary President of the Association of Composers and Authors of Puerto Rico. Hernández was active in various civic causes and helped to found baseball Little Leagues for Puerto Rican youths.

On 11 December, 1965 Hernández died after a long struggle against cancer. He left a legacy of more than 3,000 musical compositions of many different genres, including such classics as “Silencio” (lyrics), “Ausencia” (lyrics), “Campanitas de Cristal” (lyrics), “Preciosa” (lyrics) and El Cumbanchero”. But perhaps his most famous song is “Lamento Borincano” (lyrics), which has been recorded by numerous artists since it was penned. It depicts the struggles of a Puerto Rican jibaro to survive; an archetypical hero that the Puerto Rican people immediately and always identified with closely. The identification with this poor jibaro, despondent from his inability to sell his goods in the town’s marketplace can be seen as a representation of Puerto Rico’s own struggle for national identity and self-reliance in the face of a colonial history. One of the older renditions of the song is this full length version sung by Alonso Ortiz Tirado-Lamento Borincano. A more modern version-Lamento Borincano (sample audio clip) was recently perfomed by the collaborative efforts of Gilberto Santa Rosa, Marc Anthony and La India.

The works of Hernandez were beloved far beyond his native Puerto Rico. Mexicans of the Puebla region considered “Qué chula es Puebla” as their unofficial anthem. Likewise, many people in the Dominican Repuplic consider “Linda Quisqueya” to be their second national anthem.

Discography

Grandes Compositores Grandes Interpretes,... (1996)

Grand Piano Collection (1996)

1932-1939 (1996)

Su Musica (1995)

Grandes Compositores, Vol. 3 (1994)

Centenario (1992)

Musica de Rafael Hernández (1990)

Serie Compositores: Colección Vol. 1 (----)