Trio Palmar - Tres Besos (Tope 61)
Well, I'm back.
Just like last year, I found myself at the incredible Carnaval Ponceños down in Puerto Rico. The central Plaza in Ponce echoes with the African rhythms of the buléador and subidor as performers in colonial dress dance the traditional Bomba to kick things off. The infectious beat seems to increase in volume and intensity until it seems that everybody in the city is moving as one.
As the initial floats of the parade begin to reach the Plaza, the crowd presses to get a glimpse of the elaborate costumes of this year's crop of Vejigantes. Literally thousands of adolescent boys take to the streets. Most of them are wearing hand-made masks and colorful robes and carrying inflated cow bladders (I kid you not). The bladders are part of a tradition in which one's sins are atoned for by getting whacked by one of these prowling Vejigantes prior to the onset of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Wild stuff.
As night descends on the city, the parade (now some six hours old) winds through the streets and seems to set the town on fire. High School 'drum lines' pound out a relentless tattoo as the best and brightest from the surrounding countryside show off their colors and their steps. The whole thing is just an amazing mixture of Latin, African and American culture (the 2007 Carnaval was actually dedicated to those Boricua living in New York!) that has to be seen to be believed.
My visit to Ponce wouldn't be complete, of course, until I stopped by Tita's Record Shop and hunted down some vinyl for us. Just like last year, she came through, and I walked away with over forty 45s for under $20. God bless this woman! Today's 'Lado B' selection (which translates as 'Three Kisses') is another fine example of the distinctly Puerto Rican music of 'Los Trios'. The interplay between the guitar and the cuatro, along with that sweet three part harmony, just takes me away to another time and place. I love it. I have no clue as to who the Trio Palmar might be... there's no reference to them (or Tope Records) anywhere on the web. We'll see what happens.
Anyway, I really can't say enough about this wonderful place. The mountains, the miles and miles of unspoiled beaches, the music, the food, the coffee, the Rum... all that and 85° weather in February. It's no wonder they call it La Isla Del Encanto.
Amo mi Puerto Rico.