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Hiram Guadalupe Pérez

was born on 11 December 1928 on Colón Street in Santucre, in the middle of the Cangrejero neighborhood. He learned to beat a drum in improvised workshops and street rumbas without ever undertaking any formal studies in music. When he was 9 years old, he played a bongo that his cousin made from a can of powdered milk. He mastered the large conga drum and became a musical innovator by creating a combo that included two trumpets, two saxophones, a piano, and kettledrums. At the age of 14, Cortijo played the congas and bongo in the groups of Frank Madera, Miguelito Miranda, and Agustín Cohen, and with the Conjunto de las Hermanas Sustache, the Monchito Muley Group, and the Orquesta de Parques y Recreos, among others.

Cortijo’s ingenuity proved instrumental in the development of the bomba and the plena traditional Puerto Rican musical styles and he spearheaded the later ...


María Soledad Romero

also known as “el alma de Puerto Rico hecha canción” (the soul of Puerto Rico made song), a Puerto Rican singer and senator of Afro-Hispanic descent, was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on 23 May 1919 to Santiago Fernández (of Spanish descent) and Rosa María Cortada, daughter of Rafael Cortada, an immigrant from Asturias, Spain, and Adela Quiñones, an artisan of African descent. Her mother died when she was just 6 years old. She was the youngest of five sisters raised by her maternal grandmother, doña Adela.

According to Fernández Cortada, doña Adela had the greatest influence during the sisters’ formative years. She has described her grandmother as an intelligent woman who was a respected traditional spiritual healer in their community. Adela took great interest in Ruth’s education as she was a well-bred economically emancipated skilled dressmaker or modista catering to upper class clients The moment Ruth showed a ...