Sylvia Rexach

Sylvia Rexach

Songwriter, bolero singer, soloist and trio singer. Considered one of the best Latin American songwriters, her music has been performed by singers from Puerto Rico and abroad.

Sylvia Regina Rexach González was born on January 22, 1921, in Santurce, the sector of San Juan where she grew up and went to school. Her parents were Julio E. Rexach, a pharmacist, and María Teresa González, a homemaker and poet. As a child, she learned to play various musical instruments, such as the piano, the guitar and the saxophone.

Sylvia Rexach wrote her first song, Di corazón, early in her adolescence. At 21 years of age, she married William J. Riley Powers. They had three children, William (who died in 1967), Sharon and Sylvia “Chivín.”

In general, the sources of inspiration for her songs were her romantic and filial loves. Some of her romantic works are Di Corazón, Hoy que te alejas, Flores and Matiz de amor. Others, such as Anoche, Instante Sutil and Alma Adentro reflect the metaphor of a night as the end of a love affair. One of her songs, La niña y el río, the music for which was composed by Amaury Veray, is dedicated to her daughters, especially Sharon. The song Olas y Arenas was inspired by the sea; Mi regalo is dedicated to her mother; Bodas de Oro to her parents; and Lamento de Navidad, to defenseless children.

In the 1940s, Sylvia formed and directed the first trio of women, Las Damiselas, which included Nilda Martínez and Millita Quiñones. She was the group’s voice and second guitar, as well as composing its songs. When Martínez retired, Elena Rita Ortiz, a guitarist and singer, joined the group and became its third voice and first guitarist, and Idalia Rosario became the group’s drummer. Later, singer and drummer Olga “Gogui” Couto replaced Rosario. With the addition of these two, the group became known as the Cuarteto Las Damiselas and the group remained active until the middle of the 1950s. Some of the songs written by Sylvia that the group performed were Nave sin rumbo, Luna del Condado, En mis sueños and Nuestra Luna. They also performed songs by other composers, such as Rafael Hernández.

Rexach and her group performed songs from a variety of genres and styles. One example is Banana Man, a song she wrote about the emigration of Puerto Ricans to New York City, which reached unprecedented levels in the 1940s, and El Americano, a humorous guaracha that describes the vicissitudes of a person from the United States learning Spanish in Puerto Rico. Rexach also wrote Spanish adaptations of U.S. songs such as The Sunshine Boy and The Man I Love, among others.

Las Damiselas performed on various radio stations such as WKAQ, WIAC and WAPA Radio in San Juan and WTIL in Mayagüez, as well as at theaters in Puerto Rico and New York. They appeared on the most popular programs of the era, such as El café de las diez, Gloria y Miguel, La Familia Pérez and Buenos Días, among others. They also collaborated with Ramón Rivera “Diplo” and Julio Torregrosa in the theater group Farándula Bohemia. In 1953, the Cuarteto Las Damiselas became the Combo de Sylvia Rexach, consisting of Marta and Blanquita Romero, Ketty Cabán, Carmencita Figueroa and Lucy Boscana. Shorter afterwards, Marta Romero left the Combo and was replaced by Gloria Mirabal.

In addition to songwriting and singing, she worked as a script writer for some of the radio comedyprograms. Among these were El Tremendo Hotel, ¡Qué sirvienta!, La Familia Pérez, Gloria y Miguel, Cholito, El Doctor Zaché, Violeta Flores and El Monje Loco. Sylvia Rexach also wrote advertising jingles for a variety of products of the time. She was the founder and secretary of the Puerto Rican Society of Authors, Composers and Editors of Music (SPACEM for its Spanish acronym). She also collaborated with her close friend Tutti Umpierre on writing songs such as Planetarium, Novela de amor, La vida dirá, Mi versión and Inolvidable tú.

Sylvia Rexach died in 1961 at 39 years of age. In the mid 1960s, Sylvia Rexach canta a Sylvia Rexach, a previously unpublished recording that was produced along with her friend and guitarist, Tuti Umpierre, was issued.

Songs by Sylvia Rexach have been performed by numerous pop music singers, such as Cheo Feliciano, Lucecita Benítez, Carmen Delia Dipinni, Chucho Avellanet, Lunna, Lissette, Linda Ronstadt, Lourdes Robles, Josy Latorre and Bobby Capó, among others.


Rodríguez Santaliz, Virianai. Sylvia Rexach…Pasión Adentro. San Juan, P. R.: Ediciones Callejón, 2008.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.

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