Here’s A Playlist To Get You Ready For The Puerto Rican Festival

Jun. 11, 2015 / By

Can’t wait to kick off the summer music festival season? Then you don’t have to! This Sunday, June 14, Long Beach’s very own Rainbow Lagoon Park will host the 20th annual Puerto Rican Festival (also known as Día de San Juan Festival honoring the birth of John the Baptist, the patron saint of Puerto Rico).

On this day, Long Beach will become the destination of hundreds of Southern California Puerto Rican residents as well numerous other Latin American community members. The festival will feature musical performances by Bomba Liberté, Conjunto Oye, and El Gran Combo, an internationally recognized Puerto Rican salsa band that has been performing for over 50 years.

Be sure to bring your dancing shoes and also your appetite since the festival will feature a variety of traditional food vendors and other artisans. In the spirit of the festival, I put together a playlist capturing some of Puerto Rico’s most distinctive music genres. Take a listen to these tracks as you prepare to head out to the festival this weekend!

Boleros: While the origins of Bolero music are originally traced back to Cuba, during the 1920’s and 1930’s Puerto Ricans were performing and composing this bolero music. Bolero music is commonly considered the most romantic music genre in Latin America given its poetic verses and the delicate sounds of the requinto, a smaller guitar that is tuned higher than the traditional guitars that accompany this music.

Gracias a Mi Amor (El Gran Combo)

Here is a bolero song interpreted by the band that will be performing live this Sunday. Over the years, the band has formed part of the early musical careers of numerous musicians. Celia Cruz and Hector Lavoe, for example, were occasionally featured as back up singers for the band.

En Mi Viejo San Juan (Los Panchos)

This is a classic internationally recognized Bolero by Puerto Rican composer and singer Noel Estrada. In 1942, Estrada composed to song to capture the nostalgia his brother was feeling while deployed to Panama during World War II. The song later became the anthem of Puerto Rican immigrants in New York.

La Pared- (Ileana Cabra)

In this track, Ileana Cabra, the younger sister of the Calle 13, Latin America’s premiere Grammy-winning urban music group, covers the Puerto Rican classic bolero La Pared, originally composed by Puerto Rican singer and composer Roberto Angleró.

Salsa: Salsa is the product of the fusion of Cuban and Puerto Rican music styles and was born and popularized in New York during the 1970’s. During this time, New York became home to many Puerto Rican migrants, which led to the formation of the genre’s first bands.


Written by Willie Colón and Héctor Lavoe, this classic romantic track, fusing salsa and boleros, was part of their best-selling LP’s, Cosa Nuestra, early in their musical career.

“Che Che Colé”

Inspired by an African children’s game, Che Che Colé, is another Colón-Lavoe creation, the song reached international popularity and propelled the to greater notoriety within the New York club scene in the 1970’s.

Bomba: Bomba is a traditional music style of Puerto Rico and originated from the musical traditions brought to the island by enslaved Africans during the 17th century. The bomba music style represents a challenge and connection between bomba drummers and a dancer. In this style of music the dancer’s body movements and gestures lead to a synchronized drumming beat. Bomba lyrics were representative of slaves’ anger and frustration and also the source of power for social uprisings.

Agua Tile- Bomba Liberté

Bomba Liberté was founded in 2011 by San Diego bomberas/os who have been studying and practicing bomba throughout the last decade. Through performances and workshops honoring this centuries-old tradition, this group aims to educate about Afro-Puerto Rican history and culture while also learning about links between culture, artistry and personal expression. The word Liberté is a french creole word for “liberty.” Bomba Liberté will be performing this weekend at the Puerto Rican festival.

Atabey- Se Vre

Thousands of miles away from Puerto Rico, Atabey studies, shares and promotes bomba dancing, drumming and singing in Los Angeles since 2008. Atabey is one of the many names used by the indigenous people of Puerto Rico, the Tainos, for the deity of fertility and renewal. Atabey is composed of members who reside in Santa Ana, Long Beach, and Los Angeles.

For festival information and ticket sales visit Fiesta Alegre’s webpage at

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Citlalli Chavez

Citlalli Chávez was drawn to journalism, media, and communications during her years of commitment to student and community activism. Citlalli is also a Project Coordinator at The Alliance for California Traditional Arts and primarily focuses on connecting community members and youth to arts and cultural programming. Previously, Chávez worked as a labor organizer and has been active within the immigrant’s rights movement throughout her life. Citlalli received a Political Science degree at CSU Fullerton and later moved to LA to complete an M.A. in Latin American Studies at UCLA.