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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.
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.
Object Name
Date made
20th century
Place Made
Puerto Rico
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
bone (overall material)
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
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Teodoro Vidal
Puerto Rico
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ethnic
Cultures & Communities
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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