Seventh decade 1953 – 1963

Puerto Rico

  • The pace of industrialization accelerated under the Commonwealth. Many U.S. manufacturers, taking advantage of tax incentives offered by the government, set up shop on the island, including General Electric, Sunbeam, and Union Carbide.
  • By 1956, 455 new manufacturing centers had been established, creating 6,812 new jobs.
  • The boom in home construction continued unabated. Prosperity was widespread and profits surged across all sectors of the economy.
  • In 1955, the United States began its involvement in the Vietnam War. About 45,000 Puerto Ricans participated, of whom 3,000 died.
  • In 1956 there was another great migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland United States, mostly woman and agricultural laborers.
  • Television arrived in Puerto Rico in 1954. The first two channels were WKAQ Telemundo and WAPA. WIPR, the government television, station followed in 1958.
  • The new channels facilitated the dissemination of information and the creation of a mass culture, and television served as a major source of education and entertainment for the population.
  • The Puerto Rican Institute of Culture was founded in 1956, and in the same year Hurricane Santa Clara hit the island as well.
  • Between 1957 and 1963, the El Comandante racing track was inaugurated; Laurance Rockefeller built the Dorado Beach Hotel (the first resort hotel in the Caribbean), Bacardí built its factory in Cataño, and the Museo de Ponce opened its doors.
  • In addition to all the new businesses, Luis Muñoz Marín was elected governor for the fourth time during this period, President John F. Kennedy visited the island, Roberto Sánchez Vilella was elected the first post-Marín governor, and the Arecibo Observatory was inaugurated.
Puerto Rico map


  • Traditional styles, like bomba and plena, continued to produce great artists.
  • The bomba had a lot of exposure, first with Rafael Cepeda in Santurce, and then again when Modesto Cepeda inherited the mantle. The Familia Ayala from Loíza was also well-known and formed the Ballet Folklórico de la Familia Ayala.
  • The Orquestra Panamericana, directed by Lito Peña, and Rafael Cortijo y su Combo inserted bomba into their songs, transforming regional folk music into popular music. It was also incorporated into ballet, whether folkloric or classical style.
  • Other groups developed and popularized bomba, such as Areyto, Sylvia del Villar, Mayombe, Guateque, Calabó, and Paracumbé.
  • Plena reached the apex of its popularity in the 1950s.
  • La Borinqueña was adopted as the official hymn of Puerto Rico, modified to better fit a marching style.
  • There was a significant gamut of bolero performers in these decades: Bobby Capó, Carmen Delia Dipiní, Virginia López, Lucy Fábery, Ruth Fernández, Tito Rodríguez, Ismael Rivera, Celia Cruz, and many others.
  • Several trios stood out above the rest, including: Julito Rodríguez y su Trío, Los Tres Grandes, El Trío Vegabajeño, Los Condes, Los Andinos, Los Montemar.
  • New York was salsa’s first big stage, and Cortijo was its first great precursor.
  • The Puerto Rican-born José Feliciano, who was raised in New York, sang both in English and in Spanish during this period.
  • Arturo Somohano founded the Orquestra Filarmónica de Puerto Rico. Ballet de San Juan made its first presentation.
  • In 1956, the noted Catalonian cellist Pablo Casals arrived on the island, and he founded the Festival Casals. Jesús María Sanromá, Henry Hutchinson, Fernando Valenti, and Narciso Figueroa were among the luminaries who participated in the festival. Casals also founded the Orquestra Sinfónica de Puerto Rico.
  • The Conservatorio de Música counted many great musicians among its professors, such as Jesús María Sanromá, soprano María Esther Robles, baritone Justino Díaz, bassist Eddie Gómez, and composer Amaury Veray.
  • Singers, musicians, reciters, actors, and announcers appeared on the popular talent show Tribuna del Arte, presented by Rafael Quiñones Vidal.
  • In 1961, Rita Moreno won an Oscar for her performance in West Side Story.
Musical notes

Christmas Tree

  • During the 1950s, tinsel and laminated tinsel were so popular that Christmas lights were not widely used.
  • A variety of ornaments arose; snowy scenes, poinsettias, frosted ornaments, gifts wrapped in colorful paper, and nativity scenes.