The Teodoro Vidal Collection | Learning Resources


Aguinaldo: like carols, aguinaldos are folkloric songs performed during the Christmas season, usually with the accompaniment of popular musical instruments like the cuatro, güiro, and maracas.

Barril de bomba: drum used for the performance of the Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms known as bomba. Traditionally fabricated from codfish barrels.

Bejuco: a tropical woody climbing similar to liana.

Botijo: a jar made of porous clay for keeping drinking water cool.

Bomba: Afro-Puerto Rican musical tradition of percussion, song, and dance. Originating from the slave culture found on the island’s coastal plantations, today its centers of performance are Loíza, Santurce, Mayagüez, and Ponce.

Creole/criollo: This term was originally used to describe a person born in the West Indies or Spanish America but of European, usually Spanish, ancestry. It then came to mean “authentically national”, closely linking the culture of the established inhabitants of Hispanic descent with the new sense of nationalism that developed in Latin America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Cuatro: The cuatro is considered by many as the national instrument of Puerto Rico. A melodic instrument with an outline like a violin and five pairs of strings, the modern version of the Puerto Rican cuatro had largely replaced older, more regional variants by the 1930s.

Cucharón: a big spoon.

Despalilladoras: a female worker in a tobacco factory whose task is to clean the leaves so that another worker can roll cigars.

Dita: like a gourd, the fruit of the higuero tree is dried and hollowed out to create vessels such as bowls and cups or the body of instruments like maracas and güiros.

Ex-votos: a votive offering to God or the saints for having granted a desired wish.

Gallera: a ring where cockfighting takes place.

Guaracha: danceable musical style developed by Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians that became popular in many parts of Latin America by the 1940s.

Güiro: is a small percussion instrument consisting of a notched hollowed-out gourd that is played with a scraper or puyero.

Ingenio: Spanish name for the place where sugarcane is mechanically processed.

Jíbaro/a: term used to describe the inhabitants and culture of rural Puerto Rico.

Mano Poderosa: a Roman Catholic symbol showing an upright hand with saints or angels on the fingertips. The Mano Poderosa (Powerful Hand) is often found as carved wooden figurine similar to a santo.

Milagros: Spanish word for miracle. It is also another word for “ex-voto.”

Mundillo: delicate handworked bobbin lace originally from Spain. In Puerto Rico, the traditional center of mundillo is the town of Moca.

Naipes: Spanish word for playing cards. Decks of cards in Puerto Rico and Latin America were usually fabricated in Spain and used imagery distinct from the playing cards found in North America.

Pandero: handheld drums resembling tambourines without the jingles. Three different-sized panderos (also called pleneras) are used to play the style of music called plena.

Pava: a wide-brimmed straw hat traditionally used by agricultural workers on the island. Its association with the rural, jíbaro culture of Puerto Rico has made it into an emblem of national identity.

Plena: The plena is an important genre of folk music in Puerto Rico, historically associated with agricultural workers on coastal regions of the island. Like the Mexican corrido, the plena is a narrative song that has been called the periódico cantao (“the sung newspaper”), detailing the pains, laughs, and ironies of working people and their communities.

Porto Rico: An archaic variant of the name for Puerto Rico that was adopted by English-speakers and imposed on the island after the Spanish-American War. In 1932, the United States Congress approved a law to permanently change the name of the island back to Puerto Rico.

Puyero: the scraper used to play a güiro sometimes known as púa.

Reyes Magos: Spanish words for the Three Kings. January 6, called the Feast of the Epiphany, is traditionally the day on which the Three Kings arrived bearing gifts for the Christ Child. El Día de Reyes (Day of the Three Kings) is one of the most celebrated holidays in Puerto Rico.

Santo: a statue or wooden carving representing Catholic or folk religious figure such as saints, Madonnas, and Christ. Puerto Rico has a long tradition of carving santos, which are used both in churches and in homes.

Santero: person that makes santos. Santeros can work individually or as a group, with workshops employing their family or apprentices. Notable santeros include the Espada family, Genero Rivera, and the Cabán group.

Salsa: Born after the end of the mambo age, salsa is an urban genre that encompasses a broad range of musical sensibilities, instrumental combinations and cultural influences, including the Cuban son montuno, Puerto Rican bomba and plena, Dominican merengue, Afro-Cuban Yoruba ritual music, Brazilian samba, and Afro-American jazz and rhythm and blues. The term salsa began to circulate in the late 1960’s to describe the revamped sound of “Latin music”. Developed in dialogue with many distinct musical influences, salsa was initially recorded primarily in New York City, but also in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and elsewhere in Latin America.

Son: one of the most characteristic musical genres of Cuba, the son fuses the poetry, melody, and string instruments of Hispanicized Cubans with the rhythms, sensibilities, and percussive instrumentation of Cubans of African descent.

Tiple: a small ukulele-like instrument that has largely disappeared from popular performances in Puerto Rico. Historically, the tiple often provided accompaniment to religious music while the cuatro reinforced the melody. Because it was crafted and played in many isolated rural communities, the tiple shows a great amount of regional variation.

Vejigante: name given to the masked performers during Carnival, whose costumes were originally designed to scare away evil spirits. Vejigantes chase and playfully swat other revelers they encounter in the street with an inflated decorated animal bladder known as a vejiga.

Zafra: Spanish name for the sugar cane harvest. Cultivation and harvesting times regulated the lives of many Puerto Rican workers, and created a season of hunger and unemployment for many during the growing season.



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