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History - Introduction

It has been said that music pervades the life of Puerto Ricans. How so? When did this start and how? These and many other questions are the subject of this section, devoted to describing the historical roots and subsequent development of music in Puerto Rico.

We shall start with the native, Taino indians but we cannot take an insular view of this history for that would leave us blinded to the influences of Spain and the United States, which controlled the public life of Puerto Rico as their possession. We must also include the influences of those places around the world whose peoples migrated to Puerto Rico, such as the Blacks from Africa, or had a close relationship with Puerto Rico, such as its “sister” in the Spanish colonial world: Cuba, and other Latin-American and Caribbean countries.

The tour will weave together an historical perspective of Puerto Rico’s music in terms of its musical genres, artists and instruments into a cohesive understanding so that the current milieu and future direction of the music and its artists can be fully appreciated.

To better organize the material on such a complex stream of people and events, we have prepared several chapters, each representing an arbitrary yet meaningful period of history. We will start with the period from pre-Colombian times through the first century of the Spanish colonial rule in Puerto Rico in the chapter: History to 1600. This will be followed by the chapter: History from 1600 to 1900, covering the days of Puerto Rico as a Spanish colony until the Spanish-American War and the first years under the rule of the United States. Our chapters on more recent history will start with: History from 1900 to 1945, focusing on the first part of the past century up through the Second World War, the post war years: History from 1945-1965 describing the period from the outbreak of peace through the tumultuous times at middle of the 60’s, and finally, we will close with that period at the end of the 20th century: History from 1965 to 2000.

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