Later Musical Career

by Elena Martínez

El "Cumbanchero" Daniel Santos

In 1930 Hernández made his first trip to Mexico. He would end up living there off and on until the mid 1940s. At the end of 1931 he returned to New York City and organized Grupo Hernández to accompany Pilar Arcos on recordings, then signed a contract with Victor Records with Grupo Victoria, named in honor of his sister. Cuarteto Victoria had Davilita as the first voice, Rafael Rodríguez as the second voice, Francisco López Cruz as the first guitar and Hernández as second guitar. (The group was sometimes the cuartet and sometimes it had as many as nine performers).

They made their first recordings in 1933. In 1935 Hernández returned to Mexico and it is during this time that he composed some of his most famous songs, such as “El cumbanchero” (click on link above to listen to Daniel Santos, the famed Puerto Rican guarachero with La Sonora Marancera, singing “El Cumbanchero”), “Amor ciego,” and “Noche y día.” He also worked in Mexican cinema on the music for many films, and appeared in three, Aguila o Sol (1937), El gendarme desconocido (1941) and Carnaval en el trópico (1942) which starred the famous comedian Mario Moreno ‘Cantinflas.’

Rafael Hernández and young Myrta Silva Back in New York City in 1939, he added a young Myrta Silva to the group, and Bobby Capó replaced Davilita. In 1940 he returned to Mexico where he specializes in harmony, composition, and counterpoint at the National Conservatory. In Mexico he also married María Pérez and had four children with her. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1947 where at the suggestion of Luis Muñoz Marín and Ernesto Ramos Antonini (founders of the Popular Democratic Party and at the time, respectively, presidents of the Puerto Rican Senate and of the House of Representatives) he was named the musical consultant for the Puerto Rican government’s radio station, WIPR, and the director of the station’s Sinfonietta. By 1965 he was very sick from cancer, and on December 11th of that year he passed away in the Puerto Nuevo Hospital de Veteranos de San Patricio.

Rafael Hernández in a commercial Nescafé in Puerto Rico (circa) 1960

Nescafé (produced by Nestlé) coffee was sold in Switzerland starting in 1938, but it wasn’t until after World War II that it spread throughout the world. Here is a commercial from Puerto Rico that was made in the early 1960s for Nescafé, with Rafael Hernández praising the product. In the song Rafael Hernández parodies his famous composition "Ahora seremos felices" to promote Nescafé.


Content credits Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Image Credits: Jesús Colón papers Collection | All Rights Reserved