La Brega

5. “Las Caras Lindas (De Mi Gente Negra)” — An Ode to Blackness

Catalino Curet Alonso (known as Don Tite) penned some 2,000 songs during his life — and around 200 were massive hits across Latin America. “Las Caras Lindas (De Mi Gente Negra)” is undeniably personal. Tite, who passed away in 2003, was proud to be an “Antillano of visibly African heritage.” While songs by other writers demean dark skin — or even exoticize it — “Las Caras Lindas” expresses Tite’s deep love for Blackness and Black people. And that love extends beyond Puerto Rico to all dark-skinned people everywhere:

Las caras lindas de mi gente negra / The beautiful faces of my Black people

Son un desfile de melaza en flor / They are a parade of molasses in bloom.

Que cuando pasa frente a mí se alegra / And when I see them walk by,

De su negrura todo el corazón / My whole heart rejoices in its Blackness.

For anthropologist Bárbara Abadía-Rexach, the song also has personal resonance. In this episode, she explores how Tite’s lyrics and perspective on race and colonialism can serve as a model today, when anti-Black racism continues to be an issue within many communities.

Learn more about the voices in this episode:

Susana Baca, songwriter and performer

• Watch Ruben Blades perform with Tite at a 1995 tribute concert

• Watch Mireya Ramos perform “Las Caras Lindas” live with her band Flor de Toloache and her brother Velcro

• Watch a presentation by literature professor Juan Otero Garabis about the representation of race in Tite’s music (in Spanish)

• Watch Sonia Fritz’s 2002 documentary about Don Tite (in Spanish)

• Read Bárbara’s book entry at Worldcat

Our cover of “Las Caras Lindas” is by the artist La Tribu de Abrante (out in April).

Listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring music from this episode – and this season. We’ll keep adding to it each week as new episodes come out.

Special thanks this week to Radio Universidad de Puerto Rico, Sara Cruz Castro, Osvaldo Rivera Soto, Taller Comunidad La Goyco y Elizabeth Andrade — and it’s dedicated to the memory of Olga Esther Rexach Ayala. Additional music in this episode by Circulo Saqra, Renee Ghost, and Ernesto Lucar. Fact checking this season is by Istra Pacheco and Maria Soledad.

This season of La Brega is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.