|Birth name||Ruth Noemí Fernández Cortada|
|Also known as||"La Negra de Ponce" (literally, "The Black Woman from Ponce", a term of endearment in Puerto Rican Spanish)|
|Born||23 May 1919|
Ponce, Puerto Rico
|Died||9 January 2012 92) (aged|
San Juan, Puerto Rico
|Member of the Puerto Rico Senate |
from the At-large district
|Political party||Popular Democratic Party|
Ruth Fernández (23 May 1919 – 9 January 2012) was a Puerto Rican contralto and a member of the Puerto Rican Senate. According to the "Comisiones Nacionales para la Celebración del Quinto Centenario" (National Commission for the Celebration of the Fifth Centennial), she is said to be one of three artists whose contributions have helped unite Latin America. The other two artists named were Libertad Lamarque from Argentina and Pedro Vargas from Mexico.
Fernández (birth name: Ruth Noemí Fernández Cortada) was born in the Bélgica community of barrio Cuarto in Ponce, Puerto Rico to Santiago Fernández and Rosa María Cortada. Fernández's mother died when she was six years old and she was raised along with her four other siblings by her grandmother. She received her primary and secondary education in her hometown. As a child she learned to play the piano and was very active in her school and community's activities. In high school she organized her own musical group. She became a professional singer at the age of 14 when she would go to the local radio stations, WPRP and WPAB, and sing for 50 cents a day, in 1935. Fernandez was heard by Mingo, a bandleader of a locally popular band and was hired into his band in 1940. She then performed in nightclubs, dances and casinos.
Fernández started to gain popularity and in 1941, at age 22, she was signed by Columbia Records with whom she recorded her first hit song, "Cuando Vuelvas" (When you return) a theme written by Myrta Silva. Her first appearance in New York City was in The Latin Theater of New York. There the Master of Ceremonies, Hector del Villar, introduced her as "El Alma de Puerto Rico hecha cancion" ("The Soul of Puerto Rico Turned Song"). That moniker was to stay with her forever.
When Fernández returned to the island, she enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico in 1943 with the intention of becoming a social worker. However, she once again joined Mingo and his band, the "Whoopee Kids" and toured with them throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.
Fernández was the very first successful Afro-Puerto Rican female singer, and as such, she broke color barriers and stereotypes. The Mingo band was contracted to perform at a benefit for the American Red Cross in the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel on August 4, 1945. The director of the orchestra told her that according to the hotel's rules, she had to enter through the kitchen door like all other black musicians (a de facto integration rule, illegal at the time in Puerto Rico, but still in place at the time out of concern for American patrons of the hotel). Ruth however, did not follow the instructions and entered through the main entrance, driven by a chauffeur on a Packard automobile. She went on stage and performed before the astonished audience. When asked in a documentary years later how she felt about the incident, she replied: "Me llamaron negra. ¿Negra? ¿Y qué?" ("They called me a negro. Negro? So what?"). She was particularly proud about how well dressed she was that day, "wearing more decorations than Douglas MacArthur". From that point on she proudly and constantly referred to herself (even in songs such as "Soy la que soy") as "La Negra de Ponce" ("The Black Woman from Ponce)", making reference to her racial heritage and her city of origin. She often also joked that she considered herself "Insoportablemente Ponceña" ("unbearably Ponceña").
During World War II and the Korean War, she traveled overseas to entertain the soldiers of Hispanic descent.When she returned to Puerto Rico, she decided to go solo. In 1954, at age 41, Fernández participated in the first televised musical television show in the history of Puerto Rico, "El Show Libby's". She also had many other "firsts": she was the first woman to sing in a Puerto Rican orchestra; the first Puerto Rican woman to sing "popular" music at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City; the first Latina singer of romantic music to sing in the Scandinavian countries (with some notable success in Norway), and the first Latina to record with a North American band.
She had a long-standing musical partnership with Lito Peña; she recorded two albums with his Orquesta Panamericana, and he wrote and arranged many of her most famous songs. One of these songs includes what has since become a Puerto Rican folk standard, the bomba song "(La Bomba) ¡Ay, qué rica es!". She also recorded with Machito Grillo's orchestra and with Los Hispanos as backup singers.
Fernández' performances in the United States were transmitted coast to coast under her contract with the CBS radio network. She also performed at the Carnegie Hall in New York in 1960. Among the many countries in which she has performed are Italy, France, Spain, Norway, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, and Cuba.Fernandez has also appeared in two Spanish-language films, and has a role in the Afro-Puerto Rican documentary "Raíces", produced by the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico.
Fernández was twice married, with both marriages ended in divorce.Fernández had no children; because of her public acknowledgement of her nephews and nieces, and because of her philanthropic work with children, many Puerto Ricans nicknamed her "Titi Ruth" (Auntie Ruth), a term popularized by comedian José Miguel Agrelot. Flutist Néstor Torres is one of her nephews.
Fernandez always stressed the positive in her life and in her interaction with people. Her most often repeated quote is "¡Arriba, corazones!" ("Hearts, go up!"). Fernández's signature song is the Lito Peña composition "Gracias, Mundo" ("Thank you, World"), which, in a way similar to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World", depicts the planet in a very optimistic way. In many occasions, particularly at charity telethons, Fernández would be asked to sing the song as a closer, which she would do willingly. With some reluctance, but agreeing to it as to show she was a good sport, she accepted neighbor Sunshine Logroño's request to sing the song as the theme for his satirical movie, "Chona, La Puerca Asesina" (Chona, The Killer Pig), as a way to emphasize the deeds of Cambucha, the film's hero (played by Puerto Rican actress and singer Nena Rivera) of saving Puerto Rico from the giant piglet after which the film is named.
Among the many awards and recognitions which have been bestowed upon her are:
In 1985, she was given a tribute in recognition of the 50 years which she has dedicated to the artistic world with the participation of Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", Libertad Lamarque, Pedro Vargas, Olga Guillot and many others. She was also named by 500th Centennial commission as one of the three Latin American artists who have contributed the most in uniting Latin America.
In 2000, she was paid a tribute in the Antonio Paoli Hall of the Luis A. Ferré Center for the Performing Arts in Puerto Rico. During the tribute she was proclaimed "The Singer of the Century" of Puerto Rico.
In June 2012, the Senate of Puerto Rico approved Resolución Conjunta del Senado 957 (Joint Senate Resolution 957) to rename the Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña in Ponce as Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña Ruth Fernández in honor of the singer from Ponce.
She was elected into the Senate of Puerto Rico, representing the district of Ponce as a member of the Partido Popular Democrático de Puerto Rico. Her loyalty to the party had been long standing: when Rafael Hernández Colón first ran for governor of Puerto Rico in 1972, Fernández sang a campaign jingle for his campaign.
As a legislator, Fernández sought many reforms and better working conditions for the artistic class. She also looked after the needs of Puerto Ricans living in the United States; a tenement in The Bronx, New York, is named after her, Ruth Fernández Apartments. After her senatorial term was over, she served as a cultural adviser to Hernández Colón. In 1990, she was selected by Imagen (Image) magazine as one of the ten most powerful women in Puerto Rico.
At one time she led Casa del Artista Puertorriqueño (House of the Puerto Rican Artist), an organization that vouched for the development of young rising Puerto Rican artists. Her controversial tenure, spanning over a decade, resulted in the granting of $500,000 to the organization with which it purchased Teatro Coribantes, a theater near San Juan's Hato Rey financial district.
Fernández retired from all activities in the 2000s. She acknowledged suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, but 2010 newspaper interviews depicted her as having occasional moments of (very candid) lucidity.She died in San Juan on 9 January 2012 of a septic shock and pneumonia. The government of Puerto Rico declared three days of national mourning for her death. She was buried in her hometown of Ponce at Cementerio Civil de Ponce.
Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer, better known as "Isabel la Negra", was a Puerto Rican brothel owner and madam in barrio Maragüez, Ponce, Puerto Rico. Her name and her brothel, Elizabeth's Dancing Club, became part of Puerto Rican folklore both during her life and posthumously.
Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP) is an art museum located on Avenida Las Américas in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It houses a collection of European art, as well as works by Puerto Rican artists. The museum contains one of the most important Pre-Raphaelite collections in the Western Hemisphere, holding some 4,500 pieces of art distributed among fourteen galleries.
The Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico is a Roman Catholic university with its main campus in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It provides courses leading to Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate degrees in the areas of education, business administration, science, and arts and human studies. The university is also home to a Law School and, in August 2010, it inaugurated a School of Architecture in downtown Ponce. The university's original name, Universidad Católica de Santa Maria, was changed in 1950 to Catholic University of Puerto Rico with the graduation of its first class. On 25 January 1991, the name was again changed to its current name, after Pope John Paul II bestowed the title of pontifical.
Carmen Nydia Velázquez is a Puerto Rican comedian, actress and singer. She is best known for her fictional role in the comedic duo "Susa y Epifanio" which has been featured in popular radio and television programs in Puerto Rico for 30 years.
The Carnaval de Ponce, officially Carnaval Ponceño, is an annual celebration held in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The celebration lasts one week and it ends on the day before Ash Wednesday. Thus, it is generally held in February and sometimes in March. It is one of the oldest carnivals of the Western Hemisphere, dating back to 1858. Some authorities, such as the Smithsonian Institution, believe the Ponce Carnaval can be traced to as far back as 250 years ago. The Carnaval coincides with the Mardi Gras of New Orleans, the Carnival of Venice, and Rio de Janeiro's Carnival. The estimated attendance is 100,000. Scenes of the 2011 Carnaval Ponceño were featured in the Travel Channel on 7 August 2011.
The Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña is a museum in Ponce, Puerto Rico, that showcases the development of Puerto Rican music, with displays of Taíno, Spanish, and African musical instruments that were played in the romantic danza genre, the favorite music of 19th-century Puerto Rican high society, as well as the more African-inspired bomba and plena styles. Also on display are memorabilia of composers and performers. The Museum traces the rich musical history of Puerto Rico through memorabilia of prominent musicians and displays of the musical instruments associated with the three genres of music that originated in this Caribbean island.
Juan Cortada y Quintana was a Puerto Rican politician, businessman, and landowner. He served as Mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico, from 27 September 1872 to 4 February 1874.
Cuarto is one of the 31 barrios of the municipality of Ponce, Puerto Rico. Together with Primero, Segundo, Tercero, Quinto, and Sexto, Cuarto is one the municipality's six core urban barrios. It was created in 1878.
The Parque Ecológico Urbano, also known as Parque Ecológico de Ponce, is a passive park in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The park was designed by Bonin Orozco Arquitectos and was inaugurated on 19 September 2012. The park is unique in that it was designed to create a "green lung" in the city by using ecological mindset in its entirety, from the construction materials used to the design and other areas as well. Except for one tree that got relocated within the project, the new park made use of all the existing trees and shrubs as they existed on the site prior to the development of the park.
The Parque Lineal Veredas del Labrador, also known as just Parque Lineal and as Veredas del Labrador, is a passive park currently under construction in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The park will link to, but it is different from, a neighboring park also currently under construction called Parque Ecológico Urbano. The park runs along the Río Portugués and Río Bucaná rivers in the city of Ponce.
Casa Rosita Serrallés is a historic building in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, located between the former Escuela Libre de Música Juan Morel Campos and the Museo de la Historia de Ponce, and immediately behind Teatro La Perla, on Calle Salud street. It was built for one of the heirs of Juan Eugenio Serrallés Perez, son of businessman Juan Serrallés Colón, founder of Destilería Serrallés, and himself the CEO of the company that founded Ron Don Q. The building was purchased by the government of the Autonomous Municipality of Ponce in 2008 for its architectural, historic, and cultural value. As of February 2012, the building was being restored to convert it into an annex of the Museo de la Historia de Ponce to depict the 1985 Mameyes tragedy of barrio Portugues Urbano in Ponce. In 2014 it opened as "Museo de la Recordacion Barrio Mameyes" under Ponce mayor María Meléndez at Calle Salud 67. It is also known as "Sala Memorial del Barrio Mameyes" as it operates as a part of the Museo de la Historia de Ponce.
La Democracia, founded on 1 July 1890, was a news daily published by Luis Muñoz Rivera in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It crusaded for Puerto Rican self-government. At a publication length of 58 years, it was the longest continuously-running Puerto Rican Spanish newspaper of its time, and one of the longest continuously running Puerto Rican newspapers of all time.
The Festival Nacional de la Quenepa is a cultural celebration that takes place every year in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The festival centers around the genip fruit, the city's official fruit. The celebration lasts three days and takes place over a weekend. It is generally held on the second weekend of August, but occasionally during a weekend in September. It is sponsored by the Oficina de Desarrollo Cultural of the Ponce Municipal Government.
Cruce a Nado Internacional is a yearly international swimming competition that takes place at Bahía de Ponce in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It is the oldest open water swimming event in the Caribbean. The event generally occurs on the first Sunday of September, to coincide with the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend every year. The event is sponsored by Club Cruce a Nado, Inc. Some 100 athletes compete. The event started in 1980.
The Fiesta Nacional de la Danza, also known as Semana de la Danza Puertorriqueña, is a cultural celebration that takes place every year in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The festival centers around the danza, a musical genre native from the city of Ponce and oftentimes called "Puerto Rico's classical music" with rhythm, tune, and cadence that are similar to the waltz. The celebration lasts a week and takes place in mid-May. It is sponsored by the Ponce Municipal Government and the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Cementerio Civil de Ponce, a.k.a., Cementerio Municipal de Ponce, is a historic burial ground in Ponce, Puerto Rico. It was founded in 1901. It was designed by Manuel V. Domenech. Some of the people buried at Cementerio Civil include Ruth Fernández, Isabel la Negra and Héctor Lavoe. It is believed to be the largest cemetery in Puerto Rico.
The Feria de Artesanías de Ponce, formally, Feria de Artesanías y Muestra de Arte de Ponce, is an event that takes place every year in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where artists, craftsmen and artisans showcase their products. The products showcased are traditionally hand-made and in small quantities. The fair centers around crafts that highlight the traditional cultural background of Puerto Rico, including Taino, African, and Spanish traditions. The event started in 1974 and is reported to draw "thousands of visitors". It lasts three days and is held over a weekend during the month of April.
Bienal de Arte de Ponce is a biennial international art exhibition that takes place in Ponce, Puerto Rico, during the month of November. The event is sponsored by the Commission on the Arts of the University of Puerto Rico at Ponce. It has been called "the most important art biennial in Puerto Rico." As a biennial event, it takes place once every two years.
Rubén Colón Tarrats is a Puerto Rican composer, clarinet player and band director from Ponce, Puerto Rico. He also conducted the Banda Municipal de Ponce for ten years. He received his music training at Escuela Libre de Música de Ponce, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, and Temple University College of Music, and was a music professor at Ponce High School, Instituto de Musica Juan Morel Campos, and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Puerto Rico.
The Complejo Recreativo y Cultural La Guancha is a recreational complex in barrio Playa in Ponce, Puerto Rico, with family recreational and cultural facilities that opened on 23 June 1998. The highlight of the complex is the Paseo Tablado La Guancha, which is flanked by a beach, an observation tower, an amphitheater, and 24 open-air kiosks. It was developed during the administration of Mayor Rafael Cordero Santiago.