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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 ...