José Palmi and Jesús Rodríguez – Masters of Venezuelan Harp

[audio:http://floridamemory.com/fpc/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/podcasts/venezuelan_harp.mp3|titles=José Palmi and Jesús Rodríguez – Masters of Venezuelan Harp|artists=State Archives of Florida]
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To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is September 15 through October 15, this month’s podcast spotlights two talented Venezuelan harp players: José Palmi and Jesús Rodríguez. Both musicians immigrated to Florida and have enriched American culture by sharing their unique tradition through performances and apprenticeships.

José Palmi playing harp

José Palmi playing harp

The harp was introduced to Latin America by Spanish missionaries primarily during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was adopted into the indigenous music of the continent as both a solo instrument and accompaniment for vocalists and instrumental ensembles. Many varieties of harp thrive throughout Venezuela, Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico.

In Venezuela, the celebratory joropo, with its regional variations, is perhaps the most prominent type of traditional music from los llanos, or plains. Its rhythm is in triple meter like a waltz, but driven by syncopation and a fast-paced tempo—well suited for quick-footed couple dancing. The type of harp corresponding to this region is known as arpa llanera, on which Palmi and Rodríguez play many examples of Venezuela’s música llanera, or music of the plains.

Jesus Rodriguez playing the Venezuelan harp- Naples, Florida

Jesús Rodríguez playing the Venezuelan harp- Naples, Florida

The performances featured in this podcast were recorded on two separate occasions. José Palmi was recorded to digital audio tape at his home in Miami on June 27, 1993. Jesús Rodríguez, accompanied by his seven year-old-son Henry on maracas, was recorded to open reel tape at the 1986 Florida Folk Festival.

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Florida State Representative Mario Diaz-Balart wearing his "Kiss Me, I'm Cuban" button: Tallahassee, Florida (1990)

Florida State Representative Mario Diaz-Balart wearing his “Kiss Me, I’m Cuban” button: Tallahassee, Florida (1990)

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the history, culture and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking countries of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.   

Cruz Josefina Gomez showing woven fabric: Miami, Florida (September 1985)

Cruz Josefina Gomez showing woven fabric: Miami, Florida (September 1985)

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson began Hispanic Heritage week; President Reagan expanded the observation to a month in 1988l; it was enacted into law August 17 of that year.

Jesus Rodriguez playing the Venezuelan harp: Naples, Florida (1988)

Jesus Rodriguez playing the Venezuelan harp: Naples, Florida (1988)

The date on which National Hispanic Heritage Month begins is significant as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all celebrate the anniversary of their independence on September 15. Mexican Independence Day closely follows on September 16, and Chile’s falls on the 18. Also included in this month-long observation is Columbus Day on October 12.

Governor Bob Martinez signing a bill: Tallahassee, Florida (July 1, 1987)

Governor Bob Martinez signing a bill: Tallahassee, Florida (July 1, 1987)

The following resources relevant to National Hispanic Heritage Month are available on Florida Memory.

Learning Units

Video

Audio

More information on Hispanic Heritage Month is available from the Library of Congress.