Danza: From banned elegance to national anthem

The danza is closely linked to Puerto Rican national identity, as it’s the musical genre of the national anthem, “La Borinqueña.” (Capture @visitponce)

By Mivette Vega

February 6, 2024

February being “el mes del amor” is a good time to remember the history of the first popular musical genre of Puerto Rico

La danza puertorriqueña is undoubtedly one of the most romantic and elegant musical genres of the island. But did you know that in its time it was banned for being considered scandalous?

February being “el mes del amor” is a good time to remember the history of the first popular music of Puerto Rico, with which an entire generation fell in love.

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The danza is closely linked to Puerto Rican national identity, as it’s the musical genre of the national anthem, “La Borinqueña.”

For years historians have debated the origin of danza. Most agree that its beginnings were around the year 1840. While theories claim that it came from Spain and Venezuela, one of the most accurate expert theories is that it came from Cuba.

The dance was considered scandalous for the time, because couples danced to it in very close proximity. In fact, then-governor Don Juan de la Pezuela,banned it.

But contrary to the ordinance, the popularity of danza increased, especially among young people.

Ponce was the cradle of danza, since it was in that city where it began to flourish. The cultural and architectural scene and a very active society were the perfect setting for the development of the genre.

Manuel Tavárez became the father of danza, since he refined the genre after moving to Ponce from France, where he studied at the Paris Conservatory.

However, Juan Morel Campos is considered the greatest exponent of danza. He was a disciple of Tavárez, but took the genre to its next level with his compositions.

Morel Campos was the most prolific danza composer, penning more than 200 songs, most of them danceable. His music transmits the joys, desires and melancholy of the time.

Two of his best-known danzas are “Felices días” and “Alma sublime.”

Today danza is considered a baile folklórico and in the Plaza las Delicias in Ponce there is a sculpture in honor of Morel Campos.

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Author

  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.

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