The Puerto Rican Cuatro Project
A group of New England and Puerto Rican teachers, artists, writers and artisans shared the same fear that the Cuatro would be forgotten and that its significance in the Puerto Rican culture would start to disappear. In order to document the history of the Cuatro and ensure its future in the traditions of Puerto Rico, they joined forces to establish the Puerto Rican Cuatro Project in 1991. The project aims to revive interest in the Cuatro and preserve this wonderful musical instrument, as well as educate the public on its importance in the history of the country.
The Cuatro is an instrument that can be found in various forms across Latin America, and can be described as a smaller version of a guitar. The Puerto Rican Cuatro is a part of the lute, or string instruments, family. Historians believe that the Cuatro has been in Puerto Rico for approximately four hundred years, even though its shape has changed. It features ten strings in five courses, and is very closely related to the Spanish Cuatro.
More than just preserving the instrument, it is the musical genre of jibaros that is also under threat. Other genres such as bomba and plena, which are Afro-Puerto Rican music genres, have been studied, documented and are still performed today. Jibaros, music from the mountainous regions of Puerto Rico, has largely been forgotten. Recapturing the past, of which music has always been a part, is a way of giving the people of Puerto Rico back their heritage. Educating locals on their heritage, while giving them pride and hope, is what the Puerto Rican Cuatro Project is trying to achieve.
Those who are passionate about the Cuatro and the music have donated their time and skills to the Puerto Rican Cuatro Project. They have been promoting the culture, involving collectors and even instrument makers have been hard at work to produce various Cuatros for the project. Locating knowledgeable people in regard to the Cuatro has been a learning experience and has enabled the project to document the history of the instrument and discover information that has been unknown for years. Funds to keep the project alive are donated, as it is a non-profit organization that is doing valuable work in keeping the history and future of the Cuatro alive.