Florencio Morales Ramos – Music to Unite a Nation

Better known as Ramito, singer, composer and trovador Florencio “Flor” Morales Ramos was considered to be the king of Puerto Rican Jibaro music, with his brothers Juan María (better known as Moralito) and Luis (better known as Luisito) also gaining recognition as Jibaro artists in Puerto Rico’s music world. Born in a suburb of the city of Caguas on 5 September 1915, Ramito’s love for music and talent for singing likely came from his mother, who had been an amateur singer and would sing while working in the sugarcane fields where Ramito worked at various jobs in his youth.

Ramito’s talent was soon recognized and by the age of thirteen he was earning money for his singing. In 1932 he took part in a competition for trovas which was held in Caguas. It proved to be the break he needed to enter the music world and ten years later he was broadcast throughout Puerto Rico on WIAC radio station. In 1948 Ramito sang for the inaugural broadcast of WKJB-AM in Mayagüez and was also featured on a radio show broadcast from Bayamón known as La Hora del Volante. His quick thinking improvisation and amiable nature, along with his immeasurable talent, resulted in Florencio Morales Ramos gaining a following of fans in his home country, as well as among the Puerto Rican communities who had relocated to the United States.

The 1950 musical film Truya featured Ramito along with other famous Puerto Rican Jíbaro singers and musicians such as Maso Rivera, Jesús Sánchez Erazo and Ernestina Reyes. In addition to this musical film, Ramito appeared on a number of television shows, and released many highly acclaimed trova albums. He lived in New York between 1960 and 1972 to work at the WHOM radio station on the show La Montaña Canta, but continued to visit Puerto Rico regularly before he moved back home.

While Ramito gained popularity among fans of trova music in Puerto Rico, he also embraced other music genres, including salsa and plena, and is considered to have influenced and inspired the work of a number of the country’s musicians and singers. One of this talented Puerto Rican musician’s most memorable songs is Qué Bonita Bandera – a tribute to the Puerto Rican flag. The song’s lyrics included the names of Ramón Emeterio Betances, José de Diego and Luis Muñoz Rivera and expressed his wish to see the flag flying freely, instead of being considered taboo as it was during the early 1950s. The song has become an unofficial anthem, uniting Puerto Ricans wherever they may be. It has been covered by other artists such as Ricky Martin, Pete Seeger, Yolandita Monge, José González y su Banda Criolla and Tony Croatto.

Sadly, Florencio Morales Ramos committed suicide on 23 February 1989 when he was told that the cancer he had been battling had spread. He was laid to rest in the cemetery of the Puerto Rican town of Salinas where he had been living with his wife Irma Rodriguez. His fans have mourned his passing, but his music legacy lives on as a unifying force for Puerto Ricans everywhere.