The modern cuatro is a five double-string guitar-like instrument used to play música jíbara, Puerto Rican country music. In this unusual example, the dried, woody fruit of the higüero tree, a material more commonly used in the fabrication of maracas or güiros, comprises the main body of the instrument. The archaic cuatro had only four strings (sometimes doubled), like the example here. In the early 20th century, Puerto Rican musicians on the northern part of the island revamped the cuatro and added up to six more metal strings to allow for heightened virtuosity.

Date Made: 20th century

Description (Spanish): El cuatro moderno es un instrumento parecido a la guitarra, con cinco cuerdas dobles, que se usa para tocar música jíbara, es decir, música campesina de Puerto Rico. En este ejemplo poco usual, el cuerpo principal del instrumento está hecho con el fruto seco del higüero, material que por lo general se emplea en la fabricación de maracas o güiros. El cuatro arcaico estaba dotado de solo cuatro cuerdas (a veces dobles), como en este caso. A principios del siglo XX, los músicos del norte de Puerto Rico modernizaron el cuatro y le agregaron hasta seis cuerdas más que permiten destacar el virtuosismo el intérprete.

Place Made: Puerto Rico

See more items in: Home and Community Life: Ethnic, Music & Musical Instruments, Cultures & Communities, Vidal

Exhibition: ¡Presente!

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Gift of Teodoro Vidal

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1997.0097.1082Accession Number: 1997.0097Catalog Number: 1997.0097.1082

Object Name: cuatro

Physical Description: wood (overall material)metal (overall material)bone (overall material)Measurements: overall: 64.2 cm x 24.8 cm x 12.3 cm; 25 1/4 in x 9 3/4 in x 4 13/16 in


Record Id: nmah_602451

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.