• The San Juan Daily Star

Day of mourning declared for salsa great Roena

Roberto Roena

By John McPhaul

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia declared today, Monday, Sept. 27, as a day of mourning for legendary Puerto Rican salsa percussionist, bandleader and dancer Roberto Roena, who died Thursday night at the age of 81.

The flags at all public buildings in Puerto Rico will fly at half mast today.

“The departure of the great ‘Señor Bongó’ is an irreparable loss for Puerto Rico and the entire world, but above all for salsa lovers,” the governor said in a written statement issued over the weekend. “Iconic songs like ‘El Escapular,’ ‘Cui Cui,’ ‘Mi Desengaño,’ ‘Marejada Feliz,’ and many more transcended generations. His musical legacy of more than 60 years will remain with us. My sincere condolences to all his family, loved ones and colleagues in the artistic milieu. May Don Roberto Roena rest in peace.”

According to information from the National Foundation for Popular Culture, Roena, who was born on Jan. 16, 1940 in Mayagüez, took his first dance steps with his brother. At age 16, he joined the Cortijo y su Combo orchestra, led by Rafael Cortijo, and continued his musical career with El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, led by Rafael Ithier, until in 1967 he went solo and founded his own orchestra, Los Megatones, and, two years later, Roberto Roena y Su Apollo Sound. He also was a member of the Fania-All Stars starting in the 1970s.

According to press reports, Roena is survived by his children Brenda, Gladys, Iván and Francisco, and grandchildren.

Roena’s family announced in a press release on Sunday that funeral acts, under the title of “X 100 PRE Roena, Por Siempre Sr. Bongó,” will be held in Mayagüez on Saturday, Oct. 2. Additional funeral observances will be held Sunday in San Juan, concluding at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in Hato Rey.

A private burial is planned at Cementerio Borinquen Memorial de Caguas, the press release said.

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