Every Puerto Rican knows this plena and can sing its chorus, and on that island where, from July to October, everyone frequently checks the weather reports and looks to the sky, the song seems to describe a generic situation, a way of life, and a common reality. Few people today remember that the song was originally composed to commemorate a particular storm-the great hurricane of San Felipe that diagonally traversed Puerto Rico on September 13, 1928. Hurricanes are no novelty to the islanders, but the fury of that one was memorable. No one who lived through it forgot it. Don Victor Jordan, my father-in-law, who was about eight at the time living with his family in the highlands of Utuado, remembers the force of the wind, the howling noise, and the terror of a sky filled with flying zinc roofs as the houses were stripped and demolished. Winds reached 150 mph, the strongest ever recorded on the island. Property damage was in the millions, and over three hundred people officially (perhaps as many as fifteen hundred in reality) lost their lives as a direct result of the storm; the number, in fact, kept relatively low because of the lessons learned and precautions taken after the San Ciriaco hurricane of 1899 that had killed over three thousand on the island. The island's coffee crop was almost lost in its entirety, and thereafter Puerto Rico never regained its position as a coffee exporter. The island had been devastated. No better icon of the storm exists than the image of a palm tree in Utuado transfixed by a wood plank driven by the force of the wind to form a cross, symbolic of the island's Calvary.
Schwartz, Stuart B.
"Hurricanes and the Shaping of Circum-Caribbean Societies,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 83:
4, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol83/iss4/3