Music Music of Puerto Rico
Marysol Quevedo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 February 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0254


This entry focuses on scholarship on music from Puerto Rico of all genres and time periods. Over the last four decades, research and publications on the music of Puerto Rico have increased dramatically. As the reader will notice, many of these sources have been published since the mid-1990s. This is in great part due to the growing number of music scholars from Puerto Rico conducting ethnographic and archival research in both Puerto Rican and US mainland institutions. One institution in particular, the Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, has produced several music scholars specializing in music from Puerto Rico. One cannot speak of a native born and bred tradition of Puerto Rican musicology, but rather of a group of sociologists, historians, ethnomusicologists, and musicologists trained in the United States who returned to Puerto Rico after their studies; only recently (since about 2005) have we seen more concerted efforts by university professors in Puerto Rico (at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, and the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico) to train students in the various methodologies of music research. This bibliography aims to present the most important sources available today on classical, popular, and folkloric music from Puerto Rico and by Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, spanning from the colonial period (beginning in the early 16th century) to contemporary times. Some genres have received more attention than others; such is the case of the Puerto Rican danza, recognized as the national classical genre of Puerto Rico, which is the subject of several monographs and articles. Other time periods and genres have received less attention because of availability or lack of documentation; for example, little is known about the music in Catholic church services during colonial times, because most materials have been lost in fires or natural disasters. And other musics and genres have only recently received more attention because of racialized identity politics, such as the plena and bomba, which for many years were not considered representative of all of Puerto Rico, but only of its Afro-descendant community.

General: Caribbean and Cultural

The music of Puerto Rico is usually discussed in collections of essays and monographs that deal more broadly with Latin American music. Such is the case in Manuel, et al. 2006 and Kuss 2004, which include chapters on folkloric and popular music genres from Puerto Rico. Manuel, et al. 2006 offers an introduction to the music of several islands of the Caribbean and is approachable by readers who are not music specialists or Caribbean history specialists. There are also monographs devoted specifically to the culture of Puerto Rico, in which music is also discussed within this broader context, as in Galván 2009.

  • Galván, Javier A. Culture and Customs of Puerto Rico. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009.

    Introduces readers to a broad view of the cultural practices of Puerto Rico and is intended for a general reader. Two introductory chapters present the history of the island and issues regarding its political status. The eighth chapter focuses on performing arts practices, including music, dance, and theater. This book does not provide in-depth descriptions of music, but should serve as an introduction to Puerto Rican cultural practices.

  • Kuss, Malena. “Puerto Rico.” In Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Encyclopedic History. Vol. 2. Edited by Malena Kuss, 151–188. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

    Kuss provides a basic introduction to Puerto Rican music traditions, including musíca jíbara, bomba, plena, the Puerto Rican danza, and Fiestas de la Cruz de Mayo, as well as the classical music tradition. The two volumes as a whole are aimed at a reader who has some music knowledge but is unfamiliar with the music traditions of Latin America; it is ideally suited to serve as an introduction to the music traditions of the island.

  • Manuel, Peter, Kenneth M. Bilby, and Michael D. Largey. Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.

    The most recent edition of this volume includes two chapters that deal directly and indirectly with Puerto Rican music. The third chapter, “Puerto Rico,” covers topics from the Fiestas patronales (Patron Saint festivities) of Loíza Aldea to plena and bomba and Puerto Rican music in the diaspora. The fourth chapter, “Salsa, Reggeatón, and Beyond,” deals with two genres in a more transnational context.

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