Plena El Obispo

Plena Music

Plena is one of Puerto Rico’s native music rhythms. It is the music of southern, coastal Puerto Rico, especially around the city of Ponce. First appearing around the end of the 19th century, plena lyrics concentrate on providing information about contemporary events so its nickname became “el periodico cantao” (the sung newspaper). Originally plena was sung accompanied by Spanish tambourines called panderos; later frame drums and guiro were added, and more contemporary plena saw the addition of horns. Plena songs are characterized by the repetition of phrases. 

The “El Obispo” Plena

One of the most popular plena songs is “El Obispo” (or “The Bishop”), which narrates the story of a Spanish bishop that came to Ponce.  The song was written in the early around 1925 on the occasion of the arrival from the Philippines of Monsignor Edwin Vincent Byrne, the first bishop appointed to the city of Ponce. The song was ingenious in apparent ingeniousness, narrated from the point of view of an innocent, starstruck child. Satirizing the cleric’s unpriestly appearance and behavior, “El Obispo” caused a huge scandal and was officially banned. The author of this song is unknown and many versions exist. The one we include below has scandalous verses.

According to Ana D. Rodríguez, in her thesis entitled “Bailando la plena con El Obispo“, the song is an irreverent hymn inspired by local stories of the bishop’s nocturnal activities, especially concerning his visits to a bar called Rarabueyón that was frequented by prostitutes.

he song was recorded by the Grupo Ponceño in the 1920s, shortly after bishop Byrne’s appointment to Ponce. A similar version was recorded in 1976 by Daniel Santos, a Puerto Rican singer and composer of boleros. His version carries the same chorus but features additional, different verses. Manuel Jiménez (Canario) also recorded El Obispo in 1929, but as part of a single Victor matrix recording that does not survive today.

El Obispo Lyrics in Spanish

Mamita, mira el obispo,
el obispo llegó de Roma
Mamita, ti tu lo vieras
que cosa linda, qué cosa mona

Dien que no bebe ron,
pero lo bebe por cuarterolas.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

El obispo juega topos,
se emborracha y se enamora.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

Tiene los dientes de oro,
y en los de abajo tiene coronas.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

Y dicen las hermanitas
del Sagrado Corazón:
Muchachas tengan cuidado,
que ese obispo es un león.

El obispo se emborracha,
juega topos y se enamora.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona!

El obispo no come piña
que lo que come es toronja.
Mamita, si tú lo vieras,
que cosa linda, que cosa mona

A las 7 él da la misa
A las 8 él da el sermón
Y a las nueve de la noche
Está el Obispo en Parabueyón.

El Obispo Lyrics in English

Mommy, look at the Bishop,
the bishop arrived from Rome.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

They say he doesn’t drink rum,
but he drinks it by the quarter-cask.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

The bishop shoots crap,
he gets drunk and he chases women.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

He has gold teeth,
and the bottom ones have crowns.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

And thus say the sisters
from Sacred Heart:
Girls, be careful,
because that bishop is a lion.

The bishop gets drunk,
he shoots crap and he chases women.
Mommy, if you could see him,
how pretty, how cute!

Related articles

My Music is My Flag: Puerto Rican Musicians and Their New York Communities

Tesis de Ana D. Rodríguez – Bailando la plena con El Obispo


Notice: Undefined variable: user_display_name in /home/customer/www/puertoricoismusic.org/public_html/wp-content/plugins/secure-copy-content-protection/public/class-secure-copy-content-protection-public.php on line 713
You cannot copy content of this page