Just like many places in the Americas, Puerto Rico has a culture that is a beautiful melting pot with ingredients from many different places and people. On the fourth day of our trip, I was given the opportunity to experience a fantastic product of that Puerto Rican melting pot: Bomba.
Bomba is a form of music, dance, and art that has its origins in “free African people who were under enslaved conditions” who were brought to Puerto Rico by the Spanish. The other cultural influences of Puerto Rico: the Taino and Spanish, were mixed in with their African culture (instead of overriding or stomping it out), eventually forming Bomba. Bomba’s defining features include multiple forms of drums (one leading and others to maintain pace) and a communicative dance between the dancers and drummers.
Upon first arriving in Loíza (and quite frankly all of Puerto Rico), I could see, hear, and feel Bomba everywhere. In the distance, I could hear a specific, rhythmic drum beat while people laughed and hollered. People walked by me on the street wearing Bomba t-shirts. Almost everyone I encountered was proud and excited about this shared cultural passion.
Our first stop was at a world-renowned artist’s house: Samuel Lind. Almost all of his art revolved around Puerto Rican culture, and at the forefront was Bomba. Paintings of Bomba dancers were in every room, alongside literal paintings of the drums and festivals where Bomba was usually played.
During the Bomba dance class, people were so genuinely excited to share it with us and they made an effort to make us feel included. Other Puerto Ricans were seemingly drawn in by the Bomba music and watched us dance with a smile.
That day’s experience really helped me appreciate the love that the locals had for us! It’s very clear that many Puerto Ricans have an intense passion for Bomba, but instead of focusing on others’ differences or trying to gatekeep their own cultural experiences, I felt like these people truly wanted to invite me a little bit into their family by sharing it. Their inclusivity made me feel so welcome and cared about. These Puerto Rican hosts have inspired me to be more inclusive in my own life, too!