traveling latin america
Travel and tourism throughout Latin America. Plena: The Music of Puerto Rico

The music of Puerto Rico has played an important role in the island’s cultural history. Throughout the ages, Puerto Ricans have played music to celebrate, mourn, and pass the time. Along the way new forms of music were created. Most people are familiar with Salsa, but several other music genres were born in Puerto Rico, including the Plena.

Around 100 years ago the Plena appeared in Ponce, and by the 1930s it was popular all over the island. The Plena is a result of Puerto Rico’s unique blend of cultures. Its roots lie in the rhythms of Africa, but it has clearly been influenced by Spanish music. Some believe that Taíno and Jíbaro music has effected the Plena as well.

The Plena often reflects the lives of the singers and audience, with lyrics that deal with current news events or poke fun at famous personalities. Other times it is strictly entertainment, telling a funny or dramatic story. The entertainers sing a chorus followed by improvised words. While couples can dance to the Plena, it is frequently performed without dancing.

Instruments used for the Plena include panderas, which are drums made from wood and goatskin; the guiro, a ribbed gourd that is rubbed with a stick; and the cuatro, the 10-stringed Puerto Rican guitar.

While the Plena suffered a loss of popularity in the later half of the 20th century, it is experiencing a revival, due in large part to the efforts of groups in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

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