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Hernandez, Rafael (24th October 1891-11th December 1965)

He was born Rafael Hernandez Marin in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and is considered to be the most important Puerto Rican composer of all time.  He came from a poor family and while still very young he made a living as a cigar maker.

He became a full time music student when he was 12 years old and studied in San Juan, becoming a multi-instrumentalist and later a composer.  When he was 14 he played for the Cocolia Orquestra.

In 1917 he worked as a musician in North Carolina and enlisted in the US Army for WWI, serving in France.  While he was there he toured with the Orchestra Europe.  Once the war was over he moved to New York and in the 1920s he started to write songs and set up Trio Borincano. Following their break up he formed a quartet who widely performed.

He moved to Mexico in 1932 and directed an orchestra there as well as acted and arranged the scores of several movies.  His famous works include “Lamento Borincan” and “Preciosa”.

In 1947 he became the director of the Puerto Rico Symphony orchestra and was musical director to WIPR Radio.  He composed danzas, boleros and waltzes as well as patriotic music.

He was Honorary President of the Authors and Composers Association and the founder of little league baseball in Puerto Rico.  The airport at Aguadilla is named after him as are two schools in Boston and Newark.  President John F. Kennedy christened him “Mr. Cumanchero”.

He died from cancer in San Juan on 11th December 1965.  He was 74 years old.

Anacani Recordings
Cuban Moonlight (Rafael Hernandez/Al Gershon)