Tennis player Monica Puig’s first gold medal for Puerto Rico brought another first to the Olympics: as Puig stood on the podium to receive her medal Saturday (Aug. 13), the Puerto Rican anthem was played for the first time at the games.
“La Borinqueña” was heard as a teary Puig stood with the medal around her neck. The song, with a title referencing the native Taíno name for Puerto Rico, was written in 1867 to the rhythm of the habanera, or contradanza dance style; it was later reworked as a military march. The hymn’s original lyrics, now known as “the revolutionary version,” are from a poem by Lola Rodriguez de Tió. The 1868 verses were a passionate call to arms coinciding with revolt against Spanish rule in Puerto Rico (”We want freedom, and our machetes will give it to us”). Those verses were replaced by another less rebellious set of lyrics, written by Manuel Fernández Juncos in 1903, that extol the beauty of the island.
In 1952, the same year that Puerto Rico was dubbed a Commonwealth to describe the U.S. territorial relationship with the island and the Puerto Rican constitution was written, governor Luis Muñoz Marín signed a law making “La Borinqueña” the official anthem of Puerto Rico.
Here’s a dramatic version of “La Borinqueña” sung by popular Puerto Rican singer Ednita Nazario, Ruth Hernández and Cesar Hernández: