On Thursday April 26 2012, UPRM’s Hispanic Studies Department concluded its weeklong celebration “Semana de la Lengua Española” by hosting a performance by an art group called Plenibom. They were offering a tribute to the Puerto Rican music composer Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso. Best known for his massive contribution to salsa music, Tite Curet Alonso also wrote some poetry. During his career he wrote over 2,000 songs for Puerto Rican artists including Franky Ruiz, Héctor Lavoe, La Lupe and many more. Most of his work was based on his daily life and experience. Being a black person in his time was rather difficult and with his songs he reflected the social problems that Puerto Rico faced in the 1960s. The group Plenibom has been performing his songs for a long time. As Sandra Santiago, one of the members explained, “The group was formed 32 years ago but I have been in it 18 years only. We come from different parts of the east, but mainly the group is from Carolina.”
The hour long tribute entailed everything under the sun in terms of entertainment. There was singing, dancing, and spoken word all under a traditional afro centric beat. Performance group director, Norma Salazar, was the main singer. She was a very close friend of Tite Curet Alonso; he even recommended the name of the group to her. Although his music is not contemporary with UPRM students, the event attracted many of them and some even danced to the afro centric beat. The group, consisted by six members of men and women, began their performance at 11:00 am with an African-style instrumental song which served as introduction to the rest repertoire. In accordance with the music, they were dressed with African style shirts, each one had a different color except the dancer Sandra Santiago who was dressed in white.
With this event, it was shown to everyone that our cultural roots are not completely lost as many people think. Even though many students didn’t know who Tite Curet was until that day, they enjoyed the activity. Knowing our culture is crucial for our formation as habitants of a country and that applies to every culture in the world. Plenibom is group that not only performs to provide entertainment but they also promote the love and appreciation for Puerto Rico’s African roots. After singing Babalú, Salazar performed the poem Con Dos Banderas. The title of his poem gives you a hint of what is about, Puerto Rico’s political status. The beauty of it is that you can still apply it to present and see its significance in our reality even though it’s an old poem. As the performance continued, more people arrived to see the show. Another singer of the group was John Rivera; he also played the drums and sang with Salazar. The song that he performed attracted young people to dance in the stage, meaning that they haven’t lost interest at all. Students that were in the activity were really attracted by the music, the color of their clothes and that African style of the event. “It was a tribute packed with soul. There was a unique atmosphere that not only relaxed you but made you anxious in a good way; an anxiousness to just get up and join along to transcend to that stage and feel whole.” a fellow student explained.
Coming to an end, the group decided to close with one of the most famous songs of Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso, Las caras lindas, a song about the life and beauty of black people. Tite Curet was more than known; he was appreciated for his contributions to the marginalized group of black people in Puerto Rico and how he portrayed their reality. The importance of this event was not only making a tribute to this Puerto Rican composer but also promote the significance of our native language and our origins. By making the invitation to Plenibom, the Hispanic Studies Department demonstrated that people still care about our native language and our diverse culture. As Puerto Ricans, people should feel proud about every positive aspect of our culture and embrace it with dignity.