Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Pablo Casals and His Musical Legacy for Puerto Rico

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Pablo Casals and His Musical Legacy for Puerto Rico

Article excerpt

Puerto Rico is a vacation paradise for many - but it offers a lot more than that.

La Isla del Encanto was first settled by the Ortoiroid people between 3000 and 2000 B.C. Other tribes came later, and by the time Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493, the Tainos were the dominant indigenous culture.

Columbus landed on his second trip and named the island San Juan de Bautista in honor of John the Baptist. The natural harbor on the northern eastern part of the island was dubbed Puerto Rico, Rich Port. For reasons lost in history, the names were eventually switched.

Puerto Rico became a classic Spanish colony; it existed and was exploited for the mother country. The Spanish enslaved the Tainos, worked them harshly both on plantations and in the gold mines. Within a few decades, they were exterminated. To replenish that labor force, the Spanish began importing slaves from Africa. Although denied by revisionists nowadays, racism was alive and well for hundreds of years in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was intensely patriotic and royalist. Those sentiments only increased after the 1820s when so many Spanish colonies declared their independence from Spain. Many loyalists fled to Puerto Rico where they waited and plotted their return to their colonial homelands; an eventuality that would never came to pass.

Puerto Rico remained a loyal Spanish colony for 400 years. In the mid1800s, segments of the population advocated independence from Spain. Several uprisings failed. Diplomatic negotiations sputtered on and on. Finally, in 1898 Spain granted Puerto Rico a degree of autonomy that many believed would lead to independence down the road.

But other global events were percolating that would affect Puerto Rico. In that same year, 1898, and for many reasons, some noble and some merely selfish and imperialistic, the United States went to war with Spain. The main battleground was Cuba. But one day during that very short war, American troops suddenly landed in Puerto Rico and, with rapid dispatch, conquered the island. It was relatively gentle but a conquest nonetheless.

The 20th Century

Matters developed quickly. It was agreed early on to grant Cuba her independence, but the United States held on to Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

In 1900, the U.S. Congress passed the Foraker Act, which established civilian government on the island. The Jones Act in 1917 granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship. Thousands would volunteer and fight in the first World War.

A series of men born in the U.S. were appointed governors of the island. Finally, in the 1940s, a native Puerto Rican was appointed, and in 1952, commonwealth status was achieved for Puerto Rico wherein it became self-governing - electing a governor, a legislature and other customary elective positions as they deemed fit.

The Arts

Puerto Rico is a very small island, only 35 miles wide and 100 long. Yet it has long contributed to the worldwide arts scene. Music, drama and literature have all flourished, first among the privileged classes, but by the 20th century, all classes participated robustly.

There is a palatable joy of living among the four million Puerto Ricans on the island - as there is among the four million who live in the United States. They take great pride in their artistic accomplishments, including the fact that their tiny island has produced five Miss Universe winners.

Pablo Casals

Every year, Puerto Rico hosts a series of classical music performances with artists from around the world. They honor Pablo Casals, who founded the Casals Festival in 1956.

Born in Catalonia, Spain, in 1876, Pau, later known as Pablo, spent many years in self-exile in Puerto Rico, his mother's birthplace. He lived to be nearly 97.

He was a world-renowned cellist and performed throughout Europe from a very early age. He is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time. …

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