Plena Carbón de Palito

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 it’s nickname became “el periodico cantao” (the sung newspaper). Originally plena was a 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 “Carbón de Palito” Plena

Carbón de palito (or charcoal stick) was composed by Ramón Rivera Alers, member of family associated to the plena tradition in Mayaguez. He was a plenero that used to sing all over Mayaguez. This plena recounts village events, which Ramón used to sing while playing his tambourine. In this case, Rivera Alers narrates the places in Mayaguez visited by coal workers every day.

Carbón de Palito Lyrics

Composer: Ramón Rivera Alers

(Coro)

Carbón, carbón, carbón de palito,
Carbón, carbón. . .

A las cinco de la mañana
salen los carboneros
del barrio de la Quinta,
cruzan por Balboa
suben por la Méndez Vigo
Cruzan Camino Nuevo
van a Dulces Labios,
cruzan a Pueblo Nuevo,
van a la Concordia
y andan to’ el pueblo entero.

Van a Barcelona,
suben por la palmita,
cruzan por la plaza
suben a Buena Vista,
cruzan Camino Nuevo
van hasta Colombia [el barrio]
van a la Concordia
y andan el pueblo entero.
(Coro)