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5. “Las Caras Lindas (De Mi Gente Negra)” — An Ode to Blackness

La Brega

WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios

Podcast, Puerto, San, Historia, La, De, Vieques, Juan, Rico, Society & Culture, Levittown, Noticias, Brega

4.91K Ratings

🗓️ 2 March 2023

⏱️ 37 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


Catalino Curet Alonso (known as Don Tite) penned some 2,000 songs during his life — and around 200 were massive hits across Latin America. “Las Caras Lindas (De Mi Gente Negra)” is undeniably personal. Tite, who passed away in 2003, was proud to be an “Antillano of visibly African heritage.” While songs by other writers demean dark skin — or even exoticize it — “Las Caras Lindas” expresses Tite’s deep love for Blackness and Black people. And that love extends beyond Puerto Rico to all dark-skinned people everywhere: Las caras lindas de mi gente negra / The beautiful faces of my Black people Son un desfile de melaza en flor / They are a parade of molasses in bloom. Que cuando pasa frente a mí se alegra / And when I see them walk by, De su negrura todo el corazón / My whole heart rejoices in its Blackness. For anthropologist Bárbara Abadía-Rexach, the song also has personal resonance. In this episode, she explores how Tite’s lyrics and perspective on race and colonialism can serve as a model today, when anti-Black racism continues to be an issue within many communities. Learn more about the voices in this episode: • Susana Baca, songwriter and performer • Watch Ruben Blades perform with Tite at a 1995 tribute concert • Watch Mireya Ramos perform “Las Caras Lindas” live with her band Flor de Toloache and her brother Velcro • Watch a presentation by literature professor Juan Otero Garabis about the representation of race in Tite’s music (in Spanish) • Watch Sonia Fritz’s 2002 documentary about Don Tite (in Spanish) • Read Bárbara’s book entry at Worldcat Our cover of “Las Caras Lindas” is by the artist La Tribu de Abrante (out in April). Listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring music from this episode – and this season. We’ll keep adding to it each week as new episodes come out. Special thanks this week to Radio Universidad de Puerto Rico, Sara Cruz Castro, Osvaldo Rivera Soto, Taller Comunidad La Goyco y Elizabeth Andrade — and it’s dedicated to the memory of Olga Esther Rexach Ayala. Additional music in this episode by Circulo Saqra, Renee Goust, and Ernesto Lucar. Fact checking this season is by Istra Pacheco and María Soledad Dávila Calero. This season of La Brega is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.

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listener supported WNYC Studios. There are things that people don't talk about much in Puerto Rico.


Things like sex education, not a frequent topic of polite conversation, the gender binary,


also not something you'll hear about at the dinner table, but the topic that probably gets the most


silence is race.


Many Puerto Ricans just don't talk about it much.


But we do sing about it.


It shows up in love songs, like Piel Canela, a beloved Bolero that's been covered, you know, a lot. Piel Canela literally means cinnamon skin.


Actually, Pielcanela was written by the Afro Puerto Rican musician Boikapo. He's comparing a skin tone to what could be seen as an exotic spice playing into a fetish


about brown skin.


That is Barbara Idaleis Abadilla Resach, professor at San Francisco State University.


Barbera also wrote a book called Musicalizandolarasa, musicalizing race.


The sample canela is the sexualization of this female body that is not completely black, not completely white.


Bobi Capo also wrote another song called El Negro Bebon, that translates to the thick-lipped black man.


In that song, a black man is killed just because he has thick lips right and when a


black cop shows up to investigate he had investigate.


He hides his own lips.


So in this song, black people and black features are criminalized. This one is Garbonerito, written by another black composer, Peter Belaque. Here they talk about coal and a gregantagora.


Here they talk about coal and a furnace, linking them to blackness. The sun says, I'm married. an


a furnace, to blackness. The sun says, I married an enchanting black woman,


and since we are both as black as tires, our product came out black too.


So songs like the Negroes,


like the Negro Bebeng and Carbonerito use stereotypes and belated black people,


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