Efraín Ronda and the first Puerto Rican cuatro method
Efraín Ronda was quite a celebrity. He was one of those wise Puerto Ricans born in the Cotuí neighborhood of San Germán who emigrated to New York in the 1930s. There he founded a school for teaching the Puerto Rican cuatro in his own home. He drafted and printed with his own hands, on a Letterpress press in his workshop, the first method for learning to play the cuatro: The Torch (1933).
For many years, in that same city, he maintained a store/workshop for the construction and repair of musical instruments, particularly guitars and cuatros. It was a magical place, of meetings and gatherings of poets and musicians. One fine day, the virtuoso Spanish guitarist and pedagogue Andrés Segovia came to his store with his broken guitar so that he could fix it.
He organized various musical ensembles—the Ronda Quintet, for example—that performed our music. He composed dances, waltzes, mazurkas and songs. In addition, he was a musical arranger who arranged the famous dances of Juan Morel Campos for the cuatro. He played on a cuatro of his own manufacture on the revered boards of the Carnegie Hall theater. So, thanks to oral history, we have the joy of learning about his life and work: it was Juan Sotomayor and William Cumpiano from the Cuatro Project who discovered him for eternity, documenting in their own words his long life and his musical and craft journey. This book also includes in its entirety a reprint of his method for playing the two Puerto Rican cuatros: the old 4- and 8-string and the modern 10-string.
Letterpress Printing Machine
Photo of a Puerto Rican cuatro made by Efraín Ronda in his workshop on Lexington Street in New York City. York
Photo courtesy Anthony Rivera Arenales
Read here an article in Puerto Rico Ilustrado of 1938
Talking with Efrain Ronda
To read the book, click on the image and press the up or down arrow key
or touch the image with your finger or pointer and push the pages up or down