Fourth decade 1923 a 1933

Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rico became a sugar factory for the United States. Four companies controlled all production on the island.
  • Sugar was the main cash crop, although a modest amount of tobacco, coffee, and a few other crops were also produced.
  • Foodstuffs could only be procured directly from the United States, at higher cost.
  • Hurricane San Felipe II devastated the coffee industry in 1928, and many workers and plantation owners migrated to cities and larger towns.
  • The sewing industry became well developed, and the excellent quality of Puerto Rican goods produced big earnings and lured American investors, all while paying female workers pennies on the dollar for their labor.
  • Sugarcane workers had no income during the dead season. By 1926, 30% of the population was unemployed.
  • By 1930, there were already 16,000 cars in circulation in Puerto Rico.
  • Education continued to spread, but there was resistance to English as the official language due to the scarcity of English teachers.
  • The women’s vote was granted in 1929 to women over the age of 21 who could read.
  • The decade ended with the turbulent local effects of the Great Depression of 1929, Hurricane San Ciprián in 1932, and the failure of various banks.
Puerto Rico map


  • With the exodus of Puerto Ricans to the United States came the export of the island’s music, and Puerto Rico’s composers began paving the way in New York.
  • In the mountains, traditional genres continued with improvised beats and the same instruments: the cuatro, tiple, bordonúa, guitar, and guiro. Bomba remained popular and plena continued to spread.
  • Melodies that took the form of musical announcements started to appear, such as “Mataron an Elena” and “Mamita llegó el obispo”. Zarzuela still held peoples’ interest.
  • American rhythms started to make headway and some of these dance steps were adopted by Puerto Ricans.
  • Ramito, the “voice of the mountain”, fomented, promoted, and spread Puerto Rican plena at an international level.
  • Other artists who distinguished themselves were the professor of the cuatro, Maestro Ladí; the composer, arranger, and trumpeter Juan Tizol; the singer Ruth Fernández; the composers Rafael Hernández and Pedro Flores; and the king of the timbales, Tito Puente.
  • There was a surge in tropical orchestras, and Dominican merengue slowly began to spread.
Musical notes

Christmas Tree

  • The concept of a crown for the tree – an angel or a star – became more popular.
  • Natural trees turned into the center of the home during the holidays.
  • The 1920s saw the introduction of angel hair. Decorators would painstakingly place the crystal-like fibers around the tree, and red was the most popular color. Green, however, was not common.
  • During the Roaring Twenties, pastel colors were all the rage, such as lavender, light blue, cream, and pink. Trees that used these kinds of colors were adorned in an exaggerated fashion, with brilliant elements; most of them had up to seven different kinds of wreaths.