Patricia Vargas (El Nuevo Día) reports that Puerto Rican singer and former legislator Ruth Fernández died yesterday at the San Gerardo Hospital in Cupey, Puerto Rico. Her nephew, flutist Néstor Torres explained that she died of a septic shock and pneumonia.
Torres is quoted as saying, “On behalf of all our family would like to thank all the people of Puerto Rico for their expressions of affection and solidarity towards us throughout this long process that we have lived with Titi Ruth. Finally, she rests in peace with her creator.” The family will provide details of the funeral hours later today. This year, the 96 year-old artist had to be hospitalized repeatedly for a debilitating heart condition.
Ruth Fernández, who was affectionately known as “La Negra de Ponce” and “El alma de Puerto Rico hecha canción” [The Soul of Puerto Rico Made into Song], was born in the Bélgica neighborhood in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on May 23, 1919. She began her career at age 14; in 1941 she obtained her first contract with Columbia Records and a contract to perform at the Latino Theater in New York. She later returned to the island to study at the University of Puerto Rico and she joined the Mingo and the Whoopee Kids Orquestra. Soon afterwards, she embarked on her solo career. During World War II and the Korea conflict, Fernández participated in several artistic tours to entertain soldiers at bases in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, including St. Thomas, Jamaica, Curaçao, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Antigua, Panama and Cuba.
Ruth Fernández was a pioneer in various fields: she was the first female singer in a Puerto Rican orchestra, traveling all over the island in a bus with 14 musicians and the director; the first performer of popular music to be hired by the Metropolitan Opera House; the first Latina singer of the romantic ballad genre to perform in Scandinavian countries; the first to record with a U.S. orchestra; and the first singer to be elected to the Senate of her country. Moreover, she was a pioneer in the fight against racial discrimination—always ready to denounce it, having been subjected to it since her earliest performances.
For photo and full bio, see http://www.prpop.org/biografias/r_bios/ruth_fernandez.shtml