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The Decimilla: the décima's small version is the foundation of our Aguinaldo

A parranda during the 1940s in Rio Piedras PR.   Photo by Edwin Rosskam

We could say that the decimilla is a décima in every respect--except that the decimilla consists of ten lines of six syllables each, in contrast to the décima's ten lines of eight syllables. But more than that, the decimilla is reserved by Puerto Ricans to serve as the lyrics for the songs of the ancient tradition of the aguinaldo.
     An aguinaldo is a gift, specifically a gift offered during the early-January holiday season celebrating the Feast of Epiphany (in more modern times, during Christmas) and as well, an aguinaldo is the song genre which, along with the
seis, is sung during that season. The occasion of the singing of seises and aguinaldos is a parranda--a Christmas serenading tradition where musicians surprise their friends and relatives with festive music during the night--not unlike the caroling tradtion in the United States.

Just like the seis, the aguinaldo has its own distinctive melodies and chords. It also treats serious, even sad themes, not only themes related to the Nativity season. Like the seis also, there are a variety of different aguinaldos, their names often, but not exclusively tied to the names of the towns that they came from.

The elder Ponce musician Mario Díaz Bauzá has identified over a dozen different aguinaldo styles. Among them:

Aguinaldo Cagueño
Aguinaldo Lorenzillo
Aguinaldo de Costa
Aguinaldo Orocoveño
Aguinaldo de Costa
Aguinaldo de Duranero
Aguinaldo de Encarnación
Aguinaldo de Promesas
Aguinaldo Isabelino
Aguinaldo Mayaguezano
Aguinaldo Quinto al Aire
Aguinaldo Jíbaro
Aguinaldo Histórico
Aguinaldo Costanero

Here's a sample of a decimilla:

Amanecer Borincano
  composed by Paco Roque
Listen to Ramito sing his version of this decimilla,
accompanied by the great cuatrista Maso Rivera
(translation below)

Visten sus sombrillas 
Los cañaverales
Y los cafetales
Su regias varillas
Y las nubecillas
Del cielo placer
Dejan esconder
el blanco Pegaso
En el rubio lazo
de un amanecer

El sol y la luna
Pintan de colores
Los alrededores
De mi hermosa cuna
Se ven una a una 
Y el sol que a mi ver
Un sueño dormía
Con la melodía
De un amanecer

La naturaleza
Se siente atraída
Como embelesida
Por tanta belleza
Y la aurora empieza
Su manto a tejer
Y nos deja ver
Sus blancos encajes
Entre los celajes
De un amanecer

Flores a porfía
Llenan sus canastos
Y huelen los pastos 
A Santa María
Todo en armonía
Tiende a florecer
Para enriquecer
La vegetación
Con la bendición 
De un amanecer

Se ven la quebrillas
Reír y brillar
Formando un collar
De mil maravillas
Y las nubecillas
En su recorrer
Suelen esconder
El blanco regazo
En el rubio lazo 
De un amanecer

Brilla en el oriente
Un bello lucero
Y alumbra el sendero
La luna riente
Y resplandeciente
Vuelve a renacer
El sol que a mi ver 
Un sueño dormía
Con la melodía
De un amanecer


The cane fields
Display their umbrellas
And the coffee plantations
Their fancy clothes
And the little clouds
Of a pleasing sky
A white Pegasus
Is allowed to hide
In a pale link
To a day's dawn

The sun and the moon
Paint the colors
That surround
My lovely cradle
You can see them disappear
One by one
And the sun that seems
To have been sleeping a dream
Awakes with the melody
Of a day's dawn.

Feels attracted
By so much beauty
And the aurora begins
Its mantle to weave
And lets us see
It's white lace
Among the cloud cover
Of a day's dawn

Insistent flowers
Fill the baskets
And the grass smells
like Santa Maria
Everything in harmony
Tends to flower
To enrich
The vegetation
With the blessing
Of a day's dawn