Kitchen Chat and more…
Kitchen Chat and more…
Mostly known for its bustling nightlife, delightful cuisine, and scenic beaches Old San Juan also possesses other remarkable treasures that must be seen while visiting the town. With deep historical roots throughout the town Old San Juan is home to numerous churches. Each church has a unique history and personality making it more than worth it to take a day or afternoon to explore each Church. The Churches pay homage to those who originally settled in the city as well as a large portion of the population which still frequent these churches just as their ancestors did.
Cathedral of San Juan Bautista
The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is perhaps the largest Church in Old San Juan. It is also rich with history being constructed in 1521. This makes it one of the oldest buildings in San Juan. It was however destroyed in a hurricane and reconstructed in 1541. The structure built in 1541 is more or less what you see when you look at the Cathedral today though it has been touched up multiple times with the last being in 1917. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is also the site of the oldest school in the U.S considering Puerto Rico is now considered a U.S. Territory. The school was established in 1513 and taught grammar to the children of the inhabitants of San Juan. Also contained within the Cathedral is the tomb of the famous explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and the waxed coated remains of the first century martyr, Saint Pius.
The San Francisco Church (Franciscan Chapel)
Another Church contained within San Juan is the San Fransisco Church or Franciscan Chapel. Though smaller than the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista it is still very much worth taking time to visit. It features a great example of a church from the 18th century when it was built. It was established by The Third Order of Francis in 1756. Inside it contains a variety of beautifully restored murals. There are also a number of restored reliefs that can be seen inside of the Church. Another interesting bit of history about the Franciscan Chapel is that the large crucifix displayed in the Church was rescued from a sunken ship off the coast of San Juan. The crucifix bears the name El Cristo de buen Viaje. Beneath the Chapel are catacombs that can be visited. Here you can see the graves of numerous people as well as that of the famous Puerto Rican Painter, Francisco Manuel Oller.
In addition to the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista and the San Fransisco Church there are a few more historical Churches that can be visited. One is the Iglesia San Jose which was constructed between the years 1532 and 1753. It is the Church of the Dominican convent that is still in San Jose. Another church that should be seen while visiting Old San Juan is La Capilla del Cristo. This Church offers a nice view as it is next to the Park of the Pigeons and a wall offering a scenic overlook of San Juan bay. It is rarely open but if you happen to stop by when it is there are some beautiful relics upon display within the Chapel.
Salsa music originated in Cuba but gained world wide popularity in the 1970’s. It became popular through a group of Puerto Rican musicians in New York who were playing afro-cuban music which developed into what is now known as salsa. Salsa is a dance music with its most defining characteristic being the use of a clave. Typically other Cuban instruments are used as well like bongos and congas. The use of these instruments is what gives Salsa its signature sound. Due to its origins Salsa is very tied to Latin American culture in both its main audience as well as its lyrical content.
History of Salsa Music in Puerto Rico
There is some dispute as to whether or not Salsa music originated in Cuba or Puerto Rico. Most of the world recognizes Cuba as the originator of salsa music, but Puerto Ricans tell a different story. According to some salsa can be traced to the 1930’s and 1940’s in Puerto Rico when mamba and son music was first brought there. Then in the 1960’s it was brought to New York through the mass migration of Puerto Ricans and given its final influences of big band music to become Salsa.
Whether or not Salsa was invented in Puerto Rico or New York, Puerto Ricans have still had a large impact on the development of Salsa music. Puerto Rico was instrumental in the creation of Salsa Romantica. This genre of Salsa music is characterized by the blending of different musical styles with Salsa. Typically, Salsa Romantica would start with a slower style of music like a rumba then build into a salsa, finishing with a mambo. Salsa Romantica is also known for having more romantic lyrics than previous the form of Salsa know as Salsa Caliente which focused on barrio life in its lyrical content. Salsa Romantica first began to gain popularity in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and is still quite popular to this day.
Contemporary Puerto Rican Salsa
Salsa is still very popular to this day in Puerto Rico. In fact it is generally agreed upon that Puerto Rico has replaced New York as the capitol of Salsa music. Modern Puerto Rican music makes use of some indigenous instruments such as güiros which are made out of gourds and used as a rhythm accompaniment. Another modern development in Puerto Rican salsa is the use of a cow-bell along with the traditional clave to keep rhythm. Some of the more well known artists in the Puerto Rican Salsa scene today are Willie Colón, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, and Hector Lavoe. They are also popular on an international scale as well. There are also numerous Salsa clubs in Puerto Rico where Salsa aficionados go to dance and enjoy top quality salsa music.
The future of Salsa
It is easy to see that Salsa shares a rich cultural and historical background and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is a comfort to the older crowd of Salsa lover’s in Puerto Rico that the youth seem to have the same passion for Salsa as their parents did. It will be exciting to see what new innovations and changes this new generation of Salsa fans will bring to the genre.
Puerto Rican music is the most well-known Caribbean sound heard throughout the United States. Many people associate the unique beats and rhythms as part of the passionate Latin American dance numbers commonly seen in dance competitions and many dance clubs throughout America. Puerto Rican music is always a sure way to get you tapping your feet and moving your hips.
The Sounds of Puerto Rico
The music of Puerto Rico is closely associated with the African and Spanish traditions that inspired it. Four known Puerto Rican instruments were adapted from the Spanish six string guitar; the cuatro, the requinto, the bordonu, and the triple. They all produce their own unique pitch and sound. The cuatro is the most popular of these instruments and is revered as the national instrument of Puerto Rico. It is typically carved from solid blocks of laurel wood and is known for creating pitches that are different from the typical Spanish sounds.
The island is also known for its prevalence of percussion instruments. Tambours (hollowed tree trunks covered with stretched-out animal skin) and maracas (gourds filled with pebbles or dried beans and mounted on handles) are some of the most common percussion instruments heard in Puerto Rico and are known throughout the world. These are some of the variety of drums that were brought to Puerto Rico by African slaves. They widely contribute to the island’s unique folk music sound and really integrate the sounds of both Spanish and African music.
A Puerto Rican Dance to Move Your Feet
The most well-known dance that Puerto Rican’s have shared with the world is the salsa. Known as the rhythm of the islands, the name salsa literally means “the sauce that makes parties happen.” Unbeknownst to many, the salsa actually originates from the Puerto Rican community in New York. It draws inspiration from the musical roots of the Cuban and the African Caribbean experience.
Salsa has made Puerto Rican’s internationally famous in the music scene. The music for salsa requires a wide variety of percussion instruments that include the güiros, maracas, bongos, timbales, conga drums, and claves, and to add the jíbaro (hillbilly) touch, a clanging cow bell. Traditionally, it also takes a bass, a horn section, a chorus and, a lead vocalist to get the combination right.
Even though the Puerto Rican music can be experienced in many places around the world, any traveler who has the opportunity to hear the unique sounds of the best music in the Caribbean in its original environment is in for a truly special experience.
350 San Francisco Street
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
Fax: Fax 787-200-8542