Every year at this time, José Felicano’s “Feliz Navidad” makes its annual climb up the Latin charts. Another sure sign that the holidays are here? Puerto Rican Banco Popular’s annual Christmastime album.
De Puerto Rico Para el Mundo, this year’s Banco Popular production, is currently at no. 13 on the Latin Pop Albums chart. Based on past Banco Popular releases, it could climb as we count down to Christmas: the bank’s 2014 album 2014 Que Lindo Es Puerto Rico made it to no. 1 on Top Latin Albums; last year’s Cuba y Puerto Rico Son topped the Tropical Albums chart.
Feliciano, the Puerto Rican crossover pioneer who first made his name in the United States with his version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” is one of the artists featured on De Puerto Rico Para el Mundo. He performs the nostalgic island classic “En Mi Viejo San Juan,” a fitting choice for the album, whose theme this year is the story of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora.
“Puerto Rico is not just an island,” says Carlitos Ruiz, co-director [with Mariem Pérez] of a musical television special that documents emigration from the island from 1900 to the present, with interviews with well-known Puerto Ricans and performances by the artists on the album. “It’s a nation dispersed throughout the world. And that’s what makes us great,” Ruiz says in a “making of” video for the show.
The special, which aired on Dec. 4th on Telemundo, is now available on DVD. Sales from both the album and the DVD benefit music education programs in Puerto Rico. “Feliz Navidad” can also be heard on the album, performed by Manny Manuel and Mozart La Para in a new galloping party version of the evergreen song.
It’s one of 15 tracks that make allusion to the Puerto Rican experience, combining memories of the island with national pride. Like past Banco Popular recordings, this one brings together artists from different generations and a variety of genres, including salsa, traditional Puerto Rican bomba and plena, rock and rap.
The great salsa singer Ismael Miranda, who grew up in Manhattan’s East Village, interprets Puerto Rican salsa icons El Gran Combo’s “Un Verano en Nueva York” together with hip hop artist Siete Nueve. Rock group Black Guayaba plays Fiel a la Vega’s intense ballad “Salimos de Aqui” (“We Get Out of Here”), which Guayaba’s Gustavo Gonzalez describes as a “hymn for a lot of people.”
Reggaeton duo Jowell y Randy perform rapper Vico C’s song “Bomba Para Afincar.” Pedro Capó and Obie Bermudez recorded Ruben Blades’ “Patria,” one of the best known songs expressing the universal theme of longing for homeland. La Tribu de Abrante and Jeimy Osorio take on “I Like it Like That,” giving the Tito Nieves hit a big band bomba vibe. Young artists Sebastián Otero and Francis Torres recorded “E Viejo de San Juan.” A conversation between a young man who lives in the United States and his grandfather in Puerto Rico, it’s sung in English and Spanish. Otero calls its bilingual structure emblematic of “The diverse ways in which Puerto Rican identity is expressed.”
Tommy Torres, Andy Montañez, Ana Isabelle and Manolo Ramos are among the other artists featured on De Puerto Rico Para el Mundo.