Rafael Hernandez Monument – Honoring a Talented Musician
If you walk around the central plaza of Aguadilla you will find an interesting statue of a man on top of a circular platform. This is the Rafael Hernandez Monument and it depicts the world-famous composer Rafael Hernandez-Marin. Hernandez was considered to be one of the most important Puerto Rican musicians to emerge in the 20th century. His influence spread across the globe and today his efforts are honored, not only by this monument, but by the naming of several places in his honor.
Today not many people will even recognize the name ‘Rafael Hernandez-Marin’. Who was this influential man? Where did he come from?
Hernandez was born in Aguadilla on 24 October 1892 to quite an impoverished family. As a child he made a modest living from making cigars. But it wasn’t the cigars that caught his interest – it was music. By the age of twelve, young Rafael decided to become a full-time music student and so, with his parents’ permission, he left home and headed to San Juan where he was able to study under the guidance of Jose Ruellan Lequenica and Jesús Figueroa. While in San Juan, Rafael mastered the clarinet, the tuba, the piano, the guitar and the violin. He also learned to play many other instruments as learned to read and write music. Such was his talent that just two years after arriving at the music academy, he played for the Cocolia Orchestra at age of fourteen.
After a few years, Rafael started making his way into the music world. In 1917 he traveled to America where he secured a job as a musician in North Carolina. There, he enlisted in the U.S. Army which enabled him to travel the world. As part of the Army’s Orchestra in Europe, Rafael toured not only France but much of Europe.
After the war he returned to New York City where he started writing songs. Before long he organized a musical trio called ‘Trio Borincano’ that was later followed by a quartet known as ‘Cuarteto Victoria’. Both groups toured throughout the United States as well as in Latin America, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In 1932. Rafael moved to Mexico where he furthered his music knowledge while working as an actor and movie score composer. He also married a Mexican woman and spent many happy years in the country. During his very full life Rafael Hernandez composed patriotic music, Christmas carols, lullabies, boleros, waltzes, dance music and much, much more. His music became an integral part of Puerto Rican culture and it might be said that there was not a person in his home country who had not heard of him or enjoyed his music.
Today the legacy of Rafael Hernandez continues to live on while visitors can see his statue in his hometown of Aguadilla. When you are in Puerto Rico try visiting the Rafael Hernandez Monument and pay homage to the country’s legendary musician.