Traditional Bomba y Plena amidst a colonial city in Puerto Rico
I have traveled all over the world, and can say this is one of the best traveling experiences I have ever had.
My husband and I stayed at the heart of a historical colonial section of San Juan, in a hotel named El Convento, built more than 300 years ago. The stay was worth it. Although there are no resorts in Old San Juan, this hotel was cozy, luxurious and rich in culture. One of our friends had stayed there before and said it was one of the best luxury hotels in Puerto Rico and he was right.
Aside from that, I was surprised of how different Old San Juan is from anything I’ve seen in the United States. What I loved the most is that Puerto Rican traditions are still very present.
While walking the streets of this picturesque old town, I encountered one of the most beautiful scenes: people dancing Bomba. Bomba is one of the native traditional musical styles. I learned that the rhythm has to be played by two or more drums. The connection between the drummer and the dancer is marvelous. Unlike what is common in most of the forms of dancing, I was told that in the Bomba dance, the drummer attempts to follow the dancer.
There is usually a group appointed to perform, but people from the audience are allowed to break out into dance –from children to adults of any age alike. I was blown away.
The first Bomba dance group I saw during my stay was at Plaza Colón. It was a Friday night, and there were other artists of different genres of music playing at various locations throughout the streets.
I was delighted. Hence, I wanted to experience more Bomba music and dance. The hotel manager gladly recommended a couple of places nearby: Tanca Street in Old San Juan, Plaza de Mercado in Santurce, Loíza and Piñones.
On Sunday, I convinced my husband to go to one of these places. We wanted to see more of the island. For that reason, we chose to go to the market square in Santurce. The Bomba music was scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m., but we went ahead of time for lunch.
The music had already started when we left the restaurant, and to my surprise, it was not Bomba. The musicians were playing Plena, another genre of music, chant and dance, native to Puerto Rico. I was extremely happy to come across this wonderful rhythm. They use hand drums. One of the musicians explained to me that Plena developed from Bomba in southern Puerto Rico. When the Bomba group started, we couldn’t stay until the end, but had a wonderful time. The dancers were spectacular!
On our way back to El Convento, we stopped at El Cajellón de La Tanca to buy fresh hand rolled cigars. We were able to enjoy the last two songs performed by the Bomba group playing in this charming little street. It was magical.
The music definitely captivated me during this trip, and built a memory that I will never forget. Truly a wonderful experience!