Updated: Mar 12, 2021
This is my critique of an otherwise beautiful and beloved Puerto Rican song, “Preciosa”. This critique relates to the song’s denial of Afrikan/Black existence in the history of Puerto Rico. The famous Puerto Rican artist Rafael Hernandez Marin wrote this song, in 1937, and it was regenerated by Marc Antony, a New York City born Puerto Rican singer, in the 1990s.
The true history of Puerto Rico encompasses Afrikans, indigenous/natives and Europeans (mainly from Spain).
No declaration of the Afrikan presence and/or contribution to Puerto Rico is affirmed in the song. Only, the Spaniards and indigenous/Taino people are acknowledged contributing to the preciousness of this beautiful island.
The love for this song, being the unofficial national anthem for most Puerto Ricans, for over 80 years, demonstrates the unwillingness for some to confront and defeat the anti-Afrikan devaluation and powerlessness.
These behaviors and thoughts patterns are a manifestation of the power of whitesupremacy imposed on Afrikans (and indigenous people). Part of its success is due to its perpetuation and reinforcement, implicitly and explicitly by some Afrikans, over generations. My silence or acquiesce was not forced on me; however, to continue my progress to become liberated, I must say to the universe: I will not remain silent, support or participate if someone explicitly or implicitly devalues or omits Afrikaness from any historical, or cultural endeavor whenever Afrikan people’s contributions are factual, practiced and documented.
One irony is that the author, Rafael Hernandez Marin is gifted musician of Afrikan descendant. Being of Afrikan descent and Puerto Rican, why would he exclude a significant part of his heritage from his song? Or was this a decision forced on him in order to have it published? Brother Hernandez lived in NYC during the height of the Harlem Renaissance (1920-35), and played in the all Black 369th Army band, and knew Arturo Schomburg and Langston Hughes.
Two sections of the songs are noteworthy for their inclusivity and praise of the two groups acknowledged in the history of Puerto Rico:
The chivalry and nobleness of his mother Spain (tienes la noble hidalguia de la madre España);
The emphatic fierceness of the indigenous people of the island (el fiero cantillo del indio bravio).
Brother Hernandez song is not the first cultural or artistic expression to “leave out the Afrikan”. I am choosing not to remain silent on this or any other expressions- that is anti-Afrikan. A section of the Puerto Rican economy benefitted from the enslavement and exploitation of Afrikans (and indigenous people}. Additionally, the Puerto Rican cultural tradition was enriched from the Afrikan creation of two of its folkloric art heritage: bomba and plena.
The third section of the song uses blackness in a negative way/reference: The mention of blackness in the song is the phrase, “con negra maldad”, which I translate as “with evil black intent”. The reference of blackness as axiomatic to evil is foundational to whit-supremacy, no matter who uses it. If we continue to accept this, we are perpetuators of this odious theory and practice.
Historically, brother Hernandez has written some well-known and beautiful songs, but if you believe “Black Lives Matter” you have to address this glaring exclusion as an artistic liquidation that explicitly omits the Black contributions to the Puerto Rican experience. As an Afrikan artist I have been struggling with the issue of when to address this omission. I have made my stand to not be a silent participant in this type of anti-Afrikan expression and behavior.
As an Afrikan artist I am practicing my truth, telling and extending a better vision of our future, and I want my Afrikan Pulse to be expressed truthfully.
I am opening this wound to treat it and remove it from our un-healthy side of self-hate, and adoration of our oppressor’s cultural values and practices at our expense and our powerlessness. I am open and willing to work on honest and creative ways to correct this distortion. Are you?
Some initial questions to commence the dialogue/discussion, for action:
Have you thought about the words in this song?
What are your thoughts about the emotional attachment by Puerto Ricans (and others), to this song, is it an implicit acceptance that the omission of the Afrikan contribution is historically acceptable and artistically tolerable?
How can we creatively address this obvious omission of Afrikan lives?
Now that you have this information, what is your truth, and how will you work to correct this incomplete presentation of leaving out the blackness in the history of Puerto Rico (or the similar encounter you experience)?
How do we move forward in addressing this issue in presenting this song, and any cultural or artistic endeavors that does not value or is only a negative representation of our Afrikaness?
Speak your truth, without personal attacks.
For Justice & Peace
“… the true purpose of musicians… we are the historians and it our purpose to tell the people the truth of our past and to extend a better vision of the future”. Randy Weston.