By:Daileen M. Figueroa
The race of a Puerto Rican is composed of three offsprings: African, Taino and Spanish. We all know the story of how these three mixed. In Mayaguez, there’s a group that with pride has established practices of dancing, singing and playing barrels that came from the African culture.
One of the many students from the Colegio has joined the group is Zoralyz Cruz Mejias. She explained that this music, better known as “Bomba”, isnt for her just the most direct heritage that we have from our ancestors, but it’s part of one of our native music with the most years surviving inside the Puerto Rican culture. it is for her, a way of expression which has become an important and meaningful part of her life as it once was for the African slaves who used this type of dance as a way of dispossession from all the anger they felt from the injustices they went through.
Another person that has been touched by this amazing music and culture is Mary Sefranek, who’s one of the English professors from the Colegio. In contrast to Zoralyz, Mary was born in the United States, moved to New york to finish her studies and is now teaching in Mayaguez. She doesn’t have any relatives from Puerto Rico but as she said, “there are many groups of ‘Bomba’ not only in Puerto Rico but in U.S.A. also.” For Mary, “Bomba” is a type of dance but also, a way of expression and a way of liberating all her frustrations and stress from work. It makes her feel part of Puerto Rico.
Mary got to know about this type of dance in Philadelphia and then in New York she took classes with a group called “Los Plenero de la 21.” She also took lessons in Herbor School for the Arts for six years until she came to Puerto Rico. Although she knew about “Bomba” from all the lessons she had taken in different places from the United States, it wasn’t until she came to Mayaguez that she actually left all her fears behind and fully participated as a member the School of Bomba.
Before she became a student of The School of Bomba, she was a bit inhibited, but now it depends on her mood. Sometimes she feel anger or frustration and she transmits it while dancing as well as when she’s calmed and relaxed that she also lets it show in her performance. Mary has enjoyed not only the lessons she has taken, but all the wonderful friends she has made through the process of learning. She said, “I’ve made friend in Bomba and later on seen them as students in Mayaguez.” Then she stated, “I also enjoy everytime my students see me dancing for the first time without knowing that I dance because they see a new side of me that is not portrayed inside the classroom.”
Mary at first was only a dancer but now she also sings with the group “Cimarronas”. In 2011, she found a barrel which she named “Nana Divine”. This name stands as a tribute to all the elderly women and to her grandmother who passed away in March that same year. Mary began to take percussion classes and that way opened a new stage in her training in the art of Puerto Rican Bomba.