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Flor Morales Ramos aka Ramito (05/09/1915 - 23/02/1989), its composer and original performer, is also one of the singers with most plenas recorded during his prolific career. A true icon of jíbara music, this troubadour from the Bairoa neighbourhood in Caguas – centre-north of the island –, known as “El Cantor de la Montaña” (The Singer from the Mountain) stood out for the variety of his repertoire, which always featured plena.

The greatest exponent of the jíbara tradition alongside Chuíto el de Bayamón, Ramito began his recording career in 1939 at the age of 24. He recorded for the RCA-Victor label with the group of Maestro Ladí, the same group that Chuíto performed with. Flor Morales Ramos (his real name) had been raised listening to his grandfather, a cart driver, sing songs through the fields of Caguas (in central Puerto Rico). An expert performer of Caguas-style aguinaldo, marianda, enramada, mapeyé and other styles of trova criolla, he gained the nickname of “Cantor de la Montaña” (“The Mountain Singer”). In Puerto Rico he is considered a true hero of popular culture, always wearing his colorful scarf and his traditional hat with machete in hand. His talent for composing décimas was astounding, as in, for example, the seis ‘78 pueblos borincanos’, where he enumerates each of the municipalities of the island in rhyme and an espinela or décima meter. Ramito was also mentioned as a great influence by Héctor Lavoe and several of his hits were taken up again as salsas, like ‘Honra y cultura’ by Willie Colón or ‘Eliminación de los feos’ by El Gran Combo. Ramito himself recorded in the 1970s various salsa productions for the labels Cotique in New York, Ebirac in Chicago and Borinquen in Puerto Rico, the latter accompanied by the orchestra of Mario Ortiz.

Yannis Ruel

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