On the way in to San Lorenzo, PR one thing was evident: Boricuas use their music to uplift themselves when times are tough. It seems a somewhat obvious point but it was never so clear until this trip as I listened to stations on the rental car radio. Song after song exhorted the importance of raising yourself from misfortune… and singing about about hope. “Levántate, Puerto Rico!” is heard on a daily basis from some source. During this past Christmas season the idea of raising yourself was a constant theme in radio jingles and full-length songs. Don’t just sit there. Do something for yourself during this crisis and sing and dance while doing it.
The most popular dance forms in Puerto Rico have to be the meréngue and the pléna, the latter of which was born in San Lorenzo, the home of the Samaritans. The pléna is a moderately fast dance with a strong beat. If you can stay still during the playing of the linked example, I would suggest a trip to the doctor. Despite the influence of various other American styles of music that have been incorporated over the decades, young Boricuas know that if they go to a wedding or some such other festive occasion that they will need to know how to dance a pléna or meréngue.
San Lorentians enjoy the reputation for being doers of good deeds on a historical basis, hence the nickname of the Samaritans. The pueblo of San Lorenzo is surrounded by 10 sections, one of which is called El Barrio Los Quemados. It is here that my parents have lived for the last almost 40 years in their little fortaleza which has withstood the force of several hurricanes by now.
There are two musical artists that have come out of San Lorenzo, the most recent one being a singer named Chayanne. He is so popular that the suspension bridge which leads into San Lorenzo has been named after him and all who travel into that town and even those who don’t know it as El Puente Chayanne. The other artist holds a source of pride as she was known throughout all of Puerto Rico and currently has a theater in the town named after her. She is Priscilla Flores, a cousin, who was famous for singing songs of the jibaros or peasants. She is regarded as the Loretta Lynn of Puerto Rico with a strong, clear voice that sang about the joys and woes of the hard working Samaritanos.
Today she would be singing to allay the woes of a town of 40,000 people, many of who are without electricity or landline phone service. For the moment they wait, pray, and hope and carry on as best they can.