Archive for July, 2013

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Sabado Gigante

Sabado Gigante is the longest-running TV show in world history. This year it celebrated its 50th anniversary – the same show, same format, same host.

The host is Don Francisco. His real name is Mario Kreutzberger Blumenfeld, born and raised in Chile.

Every week, Sabado Gigante reaches an audience of over 100 million people, in over 30 countries around the world. NO OTHER SHOW has ever matched these numbers, and Sabado Gigante does it every week.

The show is a surrealistic blend of soap opera, talk show, beauty contest, Divorce Court, vaudeville, Queen for a Day, and every game show you ever saw. This format is unique – it is so hallucinogenic, that no one has been able to copy it.

In its original home in Chile, Sabado Gigante survived a Socialist takeover, an economic depression, and a CIA-engineered military coup. The show now airs out of Miami.

Though not exclusively Puerto Rican, Sabado Gigante is living proof of the great international Latino audience. For a quick look at Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Ricky Martin, and a dozen other celebrities before they became international stars, watch this commemorative video of Sabado Gigante

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Roberto C lemente

Roberto Clemente was born Carolina, Puerto Rico. As a child he worked next to his father, loading and unloading trucks in the sugar cane fields. But he loved to play baseball, and became one of the greatest outfielders of all time.

Clemente played with only one team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, throughout his entire career (1955 through 1972). He was the National League MVP in 1966, a National League All-Star for twelve seasons, received 12 Gold Glove Awards, and led the National League in batting average four times. In 1972, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit.                               

On December 31, 1972, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, Clemente died in an airplane crash. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame almost immediately in 1973, becoming the first Latino ever selected and one of only two Hall of Fame members for whom the mandatory five-year waiting period had been waived, the other being Lou Gehrig.

Roberto Clemente was one of the great ones. Here is a video of his 3,000th career hit:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Rafael Hernández

Rafael Hernández was born into a poor family. As a child, he learned the craft of cigar making, from which he made a modest living. He also grew to love music and asked his parents to permit him to become a full-time music student. He learned to play the piano, clarinet, tuba, violin  and guitar.

At the age of 14, he played for the Cocolia Orquestra. However, it was when he learned how to write music that his life and the history of Puerto Rican music would change forever. 

His music portrayed the ocean, mountains, hurricanes and people that define Puerto Rico. His compositions of Preciosa and Lamento Borincano expressed the soul of an entire island, and its turbulent history. Here is a piano rendition of Preciosa, along with images of his many works:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Operation Portrex

A few months before the Korean War, the U.S. staged the largest war games in American history.

Known as “Operation Portrex,” it sent 32,000 soldiers of the 82nd U.S. Airborne to invade the island of Vieques, which was defended by the 65th Infantry Division of Puerto Rico, also known as the “Borinqueneers,” who had only 4,000 soldiers. 

The 82nd invades Vieques

Despite these 8:1 odds, and despite a coordinated land-air-sea assault, the Borinqueneers held the island. 

You can view a newsreel about Operation Portrex here:

The newsreel has one fundamental inaccuracy. It claims that the 82nd succeeded in their assault. In fact, they failed. The historical record is clear and unambiguous about this.

But taxpayers need to be reassured.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

The Ponce Massacre

In 1937, on Palm Sunday, the townspeople of Ponce held a peaceful march in favor of the independence of Puerto Rico. The marchers were unarmed men, women and children.

The U.S.-appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Blanton Winship, did not agree with this march. He ordered dozens of policemen and National Guard to stop it, even if it required shooting the unarmed marchers.

Ponce MassacreThe Ponce Massacre

19 men, women and children were brutally murdered in broad daylight that Palm Sunday. 200 others were wounded.

March 21, 1937 is a day that Puerto Ricans will never forget. It started out as Palm Sunday, and ended as the Ponce Massacre.

Here is a documentary about the event.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Myrta Silva

Myrta Silva had a 40-year reign as “the Queen of the Guaracha.” She was the premier female singer in Puerto Rico and New York.

Myrta sang and composed dozens of chart-topping hits. She headlined with many bands in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the United States; and hosted musical variety TV shows in both Puerto Rico and New York.

They called her La Gorda de Oro (the Fat Lady Made of Gold). She was a talented musical comedienne… 

She was a great Latin singer…

Myrta Silva, a true Puerto Rican original.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Piri Thomas

In 1967, a raw and disturbing autobiography was published by Knopf Doubleday. It was called Down these Mean Streets by Piri Thomas.

A Puerto Rican ex-felon, Piri wrote a scathing account of his East Harlem childhood, and the choices he made which landed him in prison. The language was sharp and unvarnished. The publisher saw great dramatic value in giving Piri free rein, to tell his story in his own vernacular.

The book caught on and has been in print ever since, for nearly fifty years. Martin Scorcese’s second feature film, Mean Streets, borrowed its title and ambience.

The New York Times celebrated its dysfunction, calling it “a report from the guts and heart.”

There is clearly more to the Puerto Rican (or any) experience than crime, drugs, prison and family dysfunction. But Piri was ghetto fabulous, Piri delivered the “real deal,” and Piri got published.

Here is a YouTube video about the life and work of Piri Thomas:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Luis Muñoz Marín

Luis Muñoz Marín was the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico. His father was a distinguished journalist and island politician, and his grandfather was mayor of the town of Barranquitas.

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Some people claim he sold out the independence of Puerto Rico, in order to become governor.

Others say he was a great visionary, who helped pull Puerto Rico through the Great Depression through the “Operation Bootstrap” program, and other economic reforms.

In any event, the U.S. named a postage stamp after him. Here is a short newsreel of Luis Muñoz Marín, delivering a passionate speech:

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

Lolita Lebron

On March 1, 1954, four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party walked into the visitor’s gallery of U.S. Congress. They opened fire on the politicians below, shooting 30 times and injuring 5 congressmen.

A woman named Lolita Lebron was their leader. She was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. During her trial she stated

“I did not come to kill anybody. I came to die for my country.”

 

25 years later, in 1979, her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter. Upon her release, she was received as a hero in Puerto Rico.

Here is a short documentary about Lolita Lebron. It is a bit one-sided, using the words “maniac” and “fanatic.” The same could be said about Patrick Henry and George Washington.

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Juan Bobo History Lesson:

 Pablo Casals

Pablo Casals was the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest cellists of all time.

He made many recordings throughout his career, of solo, chamber, and orchestral music, also as conductor, but he is perhaps best remembered for the recordings of the Bach Cello Suites he made from 1936 to 1939.

Pablo Casals’ mother was from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. He married Marta Montañez y Martinez, a Puerto Rican woman, and lived in Puerto Rico the last 17 years of his life. He made an impact in the Puerto Rican music scene by founding the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra in 1958, and the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico in 1959.

In 1956 he founded the Casals Music Festival, which continues to be held yearly in San Juan. Here is film clip, of Casals playing the Bach Suite No. 1:

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