You are home alone. Silence does not match your personality so you decide to turn on a music station. You are listening to Latin music and you move to the rhythm. You cannot avoid it.
You are dancing! The music has body and soul and it has taken over you. You close your eyes and feel the music that has moved your senses. While you listen to the sounds you recognize some musical instruments, but there is one unusual, and splendid sound unknown to you. The sound is vibrant and captivating.
The instrument is the cuatro . The cuatro is among the many instruments that make the Latin music alive. Since the conquest and colonization of the island of Puerto Rico by Spain, the peasants were unable to import foreign musical instruments due to their economic insolvency (Libaro). Their love for festivities and music led them to construct their own musical instrument made of the finest woods from trees in Puerto Rico.
The cuatro has been an instrument distinguished for its brilliance and quality of sound. It is played at two different angles; meaning you use your left hand to play the strings on the top end of the instrument and the right hand plays the bottom strings simultaneously. The cuatro has been recognized as the National Musical Instrument in Puerto Rico. Its musical quality and its beautiful harmony make it a precious jewel (Libaro).
The cuatro symbolizes the festive characteristic or personality of the Hispanic or Latin culture. Throughout the year there are numerous festivities in which the cuatro contributes to the cultural and musical development of our land. The versatility of the cuatro is demonstrated with the famous parrandas . This festivity is quite a tradition. The cuatro is essential in the parrandas. During the Christmas season friends, neighbors and family members gather at a pre-selected home.
There they practice Christmas carols until late evening hours. The parrandistas accompanied by the householder and a growing entourage of friends, neighbors, and relatives sing, on-or off-key, at the front door. The turning on of outdoor lights signified they were welcomed. The crowd would then continue the lively singing in the living room, expecting to find hospitality, both solid and liquid. Traditional dishes of the season are served: pasteles , fried meat pies, rice with pigeon peas, roast pork, and chicken and rice soup among the few. Traditional desserts served gave the parrandistas the clue they needed to move on to the next home.
According to the tradition, the household members visited accompanied the group with the sound of the cuatro, guiro, and maracas; to the next victim. On January 6 Latinos celebrate Three Kings Day. This is one of the festivities that accompany Christmas. The story of the three kings is based on biblical scriptures that tell the story of three wise men who guided by a bright star arrived at Bethlehem where they delivered gifts to the Christ child.
Many Latinos in Latin America, and those living in the United States, continue the tradition of giving gifts to their children. On the eve of Three Kings Day, children place grass and water underneath their bed, for the kings camels. El Museo del Barrio Parade celebrates Three Kings Day in New York. As part of these festivities a group of Troubadours , dressed in traditional peasant-like clothing, accompanied by the cuatro, sing verses to the crowd as they walk along the parade (Suarez). During the first week of May, Latinos participate in a variety of festivities to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Latino culture.
Dance and musical productions are the essential part of the celebration. Celebrations occur across the country to commemorate May 5, 1862, when Mexican forces vanquished the French army at battle in Puebla(Vargas). The battle and victory represent peoples ability to succeed despite the obstacles. Cinco de Mayo celebration is a community event used to teach the importance of continuing to fight for justice despite the obstacles. The message is: Be proud of who you are, remember your tradition of struggle, and despite the obstacles, continue the battle for education, health, and justice.
Cinco de Mayo is a time to party! It gives each city a chance .