Los Pleneros de la 21 is a Grammy nominated, New York Puerto Rican, bomba and plena group of performers and teaching artists, based in El Barrio East Harlem.
Bomba and plena are two unique Puerto Rican drum, song and dance traditions that are vibrant expressions of community belonging. They are cultural manifestations of faith, family, community and love (which are all related anyway).
Bomba began on French plantations in Mayagüez (according to the Cepedas, the first family of bomba in Puerto Rico). It’s a community tradition much like Cuban rumba, Colombian cumbia, Venezuelan tambor, Argentine tango and others.
Plena developed in Ponce, the big city in southern Puerto Rico. The hand drums were used to sing the news, and in Puerto Rico they still are. In PR, it seems like everyone knows the plenas. When we gather with family and friends, everybody sings. It’s really beautiful.
These Caribbean expressions of African and Indigenous culture have become part of the identity of all Puerto Ricans.
Los Pleneros de la 21
The group was founded in 1983 by NEA Fellow “Juango” Juan J. Gutiérrez and Master Plenero Marcial Reyes Arvelo. Gutiérrez still leads the group.
“Para Todos Ustedes” was Grammy-nominated for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2005. They are NEA – National Endowment of the Arts fellows.
The group’s name comes from the old trolley or bus stop 21 in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico. That stop was once a neighborhood of famous pleneros.
Los Pleneros in New York City
The group is based in “El Barrio” East Harlem. It does a lot of community work all over New York City.
Las Fiestas de Cruz
Los Pleneros de la 21 and Pregones/PRTT celebrate Las Fiestas de Cruz on Facebook Live @Pleneros21 on Friday, June 11, 2021 at 7pm. Free. If you are joining, be sure to download the rosary choruses from the Pleneros’ dropbox.com. “Que canta mi gente.”
Tan bonita Facebook Live
Las Fiestas de Cruz (the Feast of the Holy Cross) is a Puerto Rican tradition that began when a great earthquake struck the northern side of the island on May 3, 1787. It is believed to have been the biggest earthquake in the island’s recorded history. There was damage to churches in Arecibo, Bayamon, Toa Baja and Mayagüez (where bomba originated). The people found pieces of crosses from the broken churches and in Latin religious tradition, began to pray rosaries.
The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture works to preserve national traditions including Las Fiestas de Cruz. Today, there are usually 19 traditional songs which are sung in African call and response. On the island, there are often celebrations on Calle Tanca in Old San Juan (above La Perla) and in Villa Palmeras, San Juan’s immigrant neighborhood.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 ~ Celebrate Christmas Puerto Rican style with a bomba and plena parranda at Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in El Barrio East Harlem, NYC at 7pm. $20
La Gran Fiesta Navideña
Sunday, December 15, 2019 ~ Los Pleneros de la 21, El Trio Ideal and many parranderos celebrate the holidays Puerto Rican style with live music, traditional Puerto Rican food and drink and el pueblo Puertorriqueño in the Crystal Room at Taíno Towers in El Barrio East Harlem at 3pm.
$18 tickets at losplenerosdela21.org
This is one of New York City’s epic Puerto Rican Christmas parties with New York’s first family of bomba y plena. Hurry, this sells out.
To learn more about Los Pleneros de la 21, visit losplenerosdela21.org