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Inaugural Syracuse-area Bomba and Plena Festival

Festival features free workshops, music, and exhibition

Aug 17, 2012 — Article by: Judy Holmes

Teacher and student bomba dancing at La Casita

Luz Encarnacion (left) teaches Kimberly Sepio how to Bomba dance at La Casita Cultural Center

Music, dance, and images in the Puerto Rican tradition will be celebrated during the inaugural Bomba and Plena Festival, Sept. 4 to Oct. 5, presented by La Casita Cultural Center, 109 Otisco St., Syracuse, and La Liga, the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County. The festival will include mask and skirt-making workshops, dance lessons, music, and an exhibition: Puerto Rican Bomba and Plena: A Graphic History. All of the events are free and open to the public.

Bomba and Plena Festivals have been a Puerto Rican tradition for some 40 years and are increasing in popularity in the continental United States.

“We are pleased to celebrate National Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month and the first anniversary of La Casita Cultural Center with a month-long Bomba and Plena Festival,” says Inmaculada Lara-Bonilla, La Casita co-founder and director of programming. “We invite the community to celebrate with us and experience these unique cultural traditions.”  The festival is co-sponsored by Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and SU’s University College.

A highlight of La Casita’s Bomba and Plena Festival is an exhibition of the works of nine Puerto Rican master artists who were commissioned to create screen prints to capture the spirit of the annual Bomba and Plena Festivals held in Puerto Rico. Their posters have been collected and preserved by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in San Juan. Curator for the exhibit is Pedro “Capitol” Clemente.  An opening reception and celebration will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17. The exhibit runs through Nov. 4.

Bomba and plena are percussion-driven musical traditions that move people to dance and which reflect Puerto Rico’s African heritage. While frequently mentioned together, bomba and plena are distinct musical forms. Bomba comes out of musical traditions brought by enslaved Africans to European colonies in the Caribbean. Bomba music became a source of political and spiritual expression. It features 16 rhythms, which mark the pace of the singing and dancing. Plena music developed from bomba at the beginning of the 20th century. The lyrics are more narrative and the music has only one basic rhythm.
Screen print of a poster for Bomba and Plena festival in Puerto Rico

Screen print of a poster for Bomba and Plena festival in Puerto Rico

A schedule of La Casita’s Bomba and Plena Festival events is listed below. All events will be held at La Casita, 109 Otisco St. Further information can be obtained by calling La Casita at 315-443-1879, by emailing, or on the web at

Vejigante (mask-making) workshops for youth and adults
3:30 to 5 p.m. September 4, 10, and 11
Instructor: Open Hand Theater

Bomba skirt-making workshops for adults
1 to 3 p.m. September 4 and 11
Instructor: Migdalia Gonzalez, Linda Hatz, Luz Encarnacion

Bomba dance workshops for children and youth
3:30 to 5 p.m. Mondays, beginning September 24
Instructor: Luz Encarnacion

Bomba and Plena music
5 to 6:30 p.m. September 28 and October 5

Puerto Rican Bomba and Plena: a Graphic History, screen prints of master Puerto Rican graphic artists celebrating 40 years of Festival de Bomba y Plena

Opening Reception: September 17, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., featuring curator Pedro “Capitol” Clemente. The exhibit runs through Nov. 4.

About La Casita
La Casita is a vibrant cultural, artistic, and educational center supported by Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Chancellor.  The Center is committed to promoting and documenting the arts and culture of Central New York’s Latino/Latin American community through collaborative programming in the visual and expressive arts, education, and community activism.

Contact Information

Judy Holmes