To anyone unfamiliar with the Pioneer Valley (and this includes many college students here), it might seem out of place that Puerto Rican folk music could thrive in the area. But it does, and the large Puerto Rican populations spanning from Hartford to Holyoke support many local musicians playing traditional melodies. Victor Rios, shown in our documentary below, made his living for years playing Puerto Rican music as a full-time musician in the Valley.
But it’s not just the local Puerto Rican communities which support the music. People of all cultures are exposed to and enjoy it. Criollo Clasico plays at the popular Veracruzana restaurant in Northampton. If you sit at Santiago’s Family Restaurant on a Friday night, you’ll see people of all backgrounds enjoying the traditional food and music. The street festival thrown by the Santiagos in October, 2009 to celebrate a decade in business was attended and enjoyed by more than just the Puerto Rican community, and Ismael Santiago told us that most of his customers are non-Puerto Ricans. For the short time during lunch that we were in the Fernandez Family Restaurant on a weekday, it served members of many cultural contingents in the Holyoke community. All of this goes to show that the presence of traditional Puerto Rican music and other Caribbean and Latin musics is strongly embedded in the Pioneer Valley.