Some of us are not probably in a celebratory holiday mood. There is no need to recap on the atrocities of this year. For me, it's been a year of continuous grieving and healing. While living in the U.S., one of the things I feared the most was the dreaded phone call announcing the passing of a beloved relative in Puerto Rico. I got the phone call twice this year. My maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather both passed away in 2016. Many boricuas in the diaspora will understand the feeling of impotence. There is no last minute plane ticket that will replace the guiltiness of being absent during the illness of a family member. Being present at el velorio or attending a couple of nights of rosarios is not enough time to grieve with the family. I discovered that when mourning, plane rides tend to be purely existential; spending the whole flight replaying in memory the last moments spent with the deceased ones. Questioning the distance and the reasons why I left the island in the first place. When living apart from the family, time runs at a weird pace and one develops a special ability of noticing that children are growing too fast and adults are rapidly aging. It is a special sensor to measure the decay or entropy, and I think it is a special power shared by Puerto Ricans coming from the U.S to visit family on the island.
I recently visited my paternal grandmother and asked her about my grandpa's records. She, also grieving and going through the process of organizing the room, promised to give me a box of records. Abuelo was a huge fan of tríos and of Cuban orchestras. Among the records there are many Los Panchos compilations and Cuban mambos. But there were also some albums of música navideña. This playlist features some of the holiday tunes found in my abuelo's records.
Although the playlist could mainly consist of holiday classics I did not want to perpetuate the nostalgia of the old music. This year too, many Puerto Rican musicians have released excellent albums of música navideña. Centro has been consistently researching and publishing findings that highlight the resilience of the Puerto Rican people. The amount of musical and cultural productivity this year is a significant indicator of our resilience amid the crisis. My hope is this music will reclaim the times lost away from our loved ones and help us face the challenges of the upcoming year.
*Spotify users can listen to the playlist by clicking here. This version also includes more newer releases.
Papá Candito – "Llegó la navidad"
Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz – "Seis Chorreao"
Harry Fraticelli – "Cantando Aguinaldo"
Los melódicos – "Pambiche navideño"
Billo's Caracas Boys – "Cantares de navidad"
Maso Rivera – "A la zarandela"
Chuito el de Bayamón y Johnny el Bravo – "El retorno de la vieja voladora"
Celia Cruz – "Eterna Navidad"
La sonora matancera – "Rumbo en Navidad"
Joe Valle – "A los boricuas ausentes"
Trio los condes – "Triste Navidad"
Eydie Gorme & the Trio Los Panchos - "Alegre Navidad"
Trio Vegabajeño – "Brisas de Navidad"
Johnny Albino – "Merry Christmas Boogaloo"
El Gran Combo – “Cantares”
Los Cantores de Bayamón – “Puerto Rico es una fiesta”
Photo credit to Will Folsom, with alterations.