CHAPTER V

Political Upheaval


Elisa Campos died on November 4, 1970 of a brain hemorrhage. Her body was discovered by Mercedes a day later. The grief was almost unbearable for Hector Campos. He had always been close to Elisa, and through the years her quiet, gentle presence, was a comfort for the composer. After José Miguel's death in 1961, she had grown increasingly frail and withdrawn. During her last few years Campos Parsi visited her every day and cared for her needs. She passed away only four days before the celebration of the "Fiesta de la Música Puertorriqueña" that Campos had organized at the Instituto. He recalled that he maintained his sanity by plunging into his work and keeping busy every waking moment. Her passing marked the composer with a deep sense of grief and loneliness that he would not be able to shake for many years. Perhaps because of this sense of loss he adopted a son in 1973. An adolescent boy named Juan became his legally adopted heir. They developed a nurturing father-son relationship that strengthened through the years. Also in 1970 Campos Parsi received the gold medal and a diploma of honor from the Puerto Rican Academy of Arts and Sciences. The awards were in recognition of Campos' lifetime achievements in the field of music.1

Pablo Casals died in 1973. As a result the administration of the Casals Festival changed completely. Marta Casals, Pablo's widow, was named director and the pianist Eugene Istomin who soon married her was named to the Board of Directors. Also named to the Board was Puerto Rican pianist Elías Lopez Sobá.2The Casals organization had grown considerably since it's founding by Casals. In 1973 it was a multi-million dollar, year round endeavor. It had achieved considerable prestige and power as the major art music event in Puerto Rico. It also became an umbrella organization that managed other entities, such as the Conservatory of Music and the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. Lopez Sobá was named vice-president of the Casals Festival. In this capacity he had authority over the groups handled by the Casals Festival. He began intervening frequently in internal matters of the Conservatory and soon conflict erupted between Campos Parsi and him. Tension originally had arisen between the two in 1965, when Campos hired Lopez to accompany soprano Luisita Rodriguez on a tour taking contemporary Puerto Rican songs to Spain. Lopez arbitrarily changed the program to include a Beethoven sonata and other non Puerto Rican works. Campos Parsi claimed that Lopez had a "great disdain for Puerto Rican music". Campos terminated Lopez Sobá as the tour's accompanist. The result was a biter feud between them.

As a result of the reorganization of the Casals Festival , a bill was introduced in the island legislature creating the Pablo Casals Foundation. This proposal stirred up a hornet's nest of reaction among professional musicians and music educator's in Puerto Rico. The bill would have created a board of directors for the foundation that included Marta Casals, Her husband Eugene Istomin, Abe Fortas, Alexander Schneider, Teodoro Moscoso and Elías Lopez Sobá. Only the latter two resided in Puerto Rico. Many on the island felt that too much control of the island's musical activities would be in foreign hands. Composers such as Rafael Aponte-Ledee and Amaury Veray felt that the Casals Festival organization represented a conservative outlook in their choice of repertoire. Musicians on the island campaigned strongly against the passing of this legislation and Campos Parsi was at the forefront of the battle. Eventually the proposal was defeated by a narrow margin and the Casals Festival was not reorganized. As a result of this feud the conflict between Lopez and Campos continued to grow. Campos Parsi found the situation intolerable and in 1973 resigned from the Conservatory and returned to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

After 1971 the composer's output of musical works slowed to a trickle. For the years up to 1981 there were few new works; and the character of these works was radically different. In 1974 two new works were completed, both unusual in several aspects. "Areyto Borikén" is scored for the instruments that anthropologists believe were used by the aboriginal Taino indians that inhabited the island in pre-colombian times: conches, gourds, reed flutes, and rattlers. This work was commissioned by Areyto, a local folkloric dance group. Also in 1974 he wrote "De Diego" a work for pre-recorded voices and electronic effects. This work is related to "Poema Total", a work created in 1975 for electronic sound generators and live voices, as both works emphasized the use of emerging electronic music technology, tone color and timbral modulation.3 This work was commisioned by Grupo Poesía Coreada of the Dominican Republic. At the time. most critics considered these works minor and an insignificant part of the composer's output. The effort of utilizing combinations of folk and electronic resources for these compositions has led some observers to characterize these works as "experimental".4 The label stuck despite the fact that Campos Parsi has stated that they were not experiments but works with a different point of view.

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter created the Hispanic Arts Task Force as an gesture to emphasize the contribution of Hispanic Americans to art culture in the America. Campos Parsi was appointed to serve on the task force and as a result traveled extensively throughout the United States. He was very impressed by what he perceived as "the destiny of hispanics in the United States". He began to feel that Latin American culture could survive and transform itself in the United States. He did not perceive that assimilation into mainstream America posed a threat to the culture, language, and wellbeing of the immigrants. This belief set him on a collision course with many Puerto Rican artists and intellectuals. He had reached the conclusion that "Puerto Rican culture will always exist". He discounted the fears of nationalists and pro independence advocates on the island as unreal. He argued that the case of Hawaii, where the traditional indigenous culture was now merely a show for tourists, did not apply to Puerto Rico's historical experience.

This political stance embroiled him in controversy and ultimately made him an outcast in some artistic and intellectual circles. Up to this period Campos Parsi was considered a nationalist composer and his emphasis on motifs and themes from popular music and the folklore of Puerto Rico contributed to this view. It was widely assumed that this also reflected his political views. At this point Campos suddenly articulated a political position completely different from what was expected, as he began to support the pro-statehood movement and the right wing politicians traditionally associated with it. This faction had been in power since 1972 and appeared to have gathered strong popular support. This is the main reason why Campos was widely accused of political opportunism and chicanery. The pro-statehood faction scored a major coup in recruiting Campos Parsi because of the recognition and stature he had acquired. Very few artists and intellectuals shared this political perspective. Most sided openly with pro-independence ideals. The only other prominent concert artist associated with them was Jesús María Sanromá. This pro-statehood group, represented by the New Progressive Party (NPP), had been voted into power in 1972. That year Luís Ferré was elected governor on a platform that promised to seek statehood as soon as possible for the island. Governor Ferré and his family were acquaintances of the Campos family since the early years in Ponce. Ferré was also a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music with a degree in Piano.

After the results of the election were known there was panic among independence and commonwealth advocates because the general feeling was that the island was being railroaded into becoming the fifty first state of the union. The result was a hardening and polarization of ideological and political positions. Despite his closeness to the occupant of the governor's mansion, Campos Parsi was unexpectedly fired from his job at WIPR-TV in 1972 . Several other employees were also fired but as a group they went before the island's minority controlled senate to demand their jobs back. In 1975 Campos was reinstated at the station and began producing and hosting his own show "Mirador Puertorriqueño". This show ran successfully for ten years, until 1985. Parsi also had other jobs in television such as musical advisor to the program "Puerto Rico en el arte" on Channel Two from 1956-58, producer and host of the arts and sciences segment of "Panorama Mundial" 1960-68 on Channel Six, panelist and music critic of "La gente y su cultura", 1969-71 on Channel Two, and producer and host of "La gente", 1971-73 on Channel Eleven.

In 1980 Hector Campos Parsi was invited to work with the National Endowment for the Arts. In all he served on three panels: composition, music performance, and arts in the schools. These projects gave him the opportunity to work with funding commissions and to have direct input in the decision making of the Endowment. This relationship with the Endowment was useful to the Instituto de Cultura. Campos managed to obtain funding for many of the programs at the Instituto and he was supportive of grants applications of several Puerto Rican composers and performers.

Four years later, in 1978, Carlos Romero Barceló succeeded Ferré as governor. Romero was also from Ponce and had completed law studies at Yale University. Campos Parsi claimed that Romero prepared for the local bar exam by studying at the Campos' family library. This election brought the pro-statehooders back to power by a much smaller margin than the previous election, and as a result this brought the senate under the control of the opposing Popular Democratic Party (PDP). In 1980 the governing New Progressive Party submitted controversial legislation creating an umbrella organization named Administración para el Fomento de las Artes y la Cultura. The purpose of this cabinet level agency would be to oversee all the activity and projects related to art in Puerto Rico. From the beginning this legislation was seen by many as a cynical attempt by Romero to control arts in Puerto Rico by delivering into the hands of his political appointees.

Hearings were called by the legislators and they quickly turned into a political circus. To everyone's surprise Campos stepped forward to speak on behalf of the project. During intense grilling by the panel of lawmakers he stated that the Institute of Culture had to be trimmed and that it was not capable of handling the larger functions of promoting the arts in Puerto Rico. Many understood this to put in motion the administration's desire to eliminate the Institute, because it had been perceived as a bastion of nationalism and left wing idealogy. At the legislature Campos Parsi was attacked verbally and physically. He had to leave the premises under police escort and the hearings were discontinued despite the fact that many deponents did not have a chance to speak.5

Through an article in El Mundo we can sense the tension filled atmosphere: "The president of the Education and Culture Commission of the senate made the decision of ending the testimony of Director of the Music Program of the Institute of Culture, Hector Campos Parsi, who has surprisingly supported all the proposals presented by the President, Luis A. Ferré, and have the effect of reducing the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture to a secondary role. Both events created a great tension in the hearings room. Many of those present yelled insults at Campos Parsi such as "pig", "rat", and "traitor". Several minutes later, Campos left the Capitol building under heavy police escort.6 Campos Parsi continued to campaign in favor of the proposals. He spoke on behalf of the projects and collected signatures in support of the measure. This was also highly controversial as many refused to sign and some who did later claimed that they were deceived into signing. An ad appeared in El Mundo by a large group of musicians and educators repudiating a letter that had been printed in the media apparently suggesting that they endorsed the proposed legislation. Finally on May 30, 1980 the controversial proposals were enacted and signed into law. A front page picture in one of the island newpapers shows Governor Romero, Senator Ferré, Speaker of the House Viera, Jesús María Sanromá and Hector Campos Parsi during the signing of the bill.7

However, this did not end the controversy or the attacks on Campos Parsi. In a letter dated June 14, 1980 to El Mundo newapaper, composer Aponte-Ledeé said that Campos was an immoral opportunist. He claimed that despite Parsi's repudiation of Jorge Mester as Director and conductor of the Casals Festival and other criticisms of this organization, he changed his tune as the Festival was going to play his Sonatina for Violin and Piano. In a letter under the title "Questions Campos Parsi's motivations", he bluntly declared that: "The propaganda he makes for the Casals Festival through his show "Mirador Puertorriqueño" cannot be for altruistic reasons, rather it is a planned campaign to reach the positions of power that he believes he will obtain as prize for his contributions to the PNP". Most painful for Campos were the allegations of nepotism and immorality that Aponte included in the letter: "Regarding his program, I think that he should, as a matter of principle, eliminate from it his niece, Nilsa Parsi and the production assistant, the ex-policeman who overnight became his adopted son".

The Sociedad de Música Contemporanea group demanded that Campos withdraw his Sonatina from that year's Festival.8 The work had been chosen for performance by Henry Hutchinson, a local concert violinist and husband of pianist Luz Hutchinson, who had been hired to perform any work he chose. He was surprised at the protest because he believed he was promoting local music by it's inclusion. Some observers perceived that the real reason for the attack was to get Campos Parsi for his support of the Administration's art's policy. An editorial in the San Juan Star accused Aponte and the other protesting composers of "sour grapes".9

To everybody's surprise, Jaime Gonzalez Oliver, a person unknown to the art world was named as board chairman of the new musical arts agency. In 1981 as the directors and executives were appointed of the agency Campos Parsi was hired as a consultant to the new administration. Campos was disappointed with this appointment but was committed to working with the organization. In March of that year he took a leave of absence from the Institute to assume his new duties. In an interview with the San Juan Star, he stated that his role would be as trouble shooter and advisor to the agency on a variety of matters.10 At this time the Popular Democratic Party, opponents of the PNP, had regained control of the island senate. The new President of the senate, Miguel Hernandez Agosto, called the naming of these appointees "impertinent" because the senate intended to re-evaluate all legislation dealing with culture that was passed in the preceding session.

In May of 1982 Campos is one of the artists selected for a "Tribute to Artists of Puerto Rico". A program held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts In Washington, D.C.. Included along with the composer were pianist Jesús María Sanromá, singers Justino Díaz and Pablo Elvira, and the Figueroa Quintet. At that concert pianist Sanromá played "Plena Santa María" by Campos Parsi. Campos travelled several times that year as a delegate of the National Endowment for the Arts to participate in lectures and panels such as "Artists in Education" held in New Orleans, and the Music Educator's Conference in Caracas, Venezuela. However, despite all of this activity, Campos was restless and dissatisfied with his position as a advisor.

After two years of serving in a postion with little authority and no real purpose, Campos resigned in disgust. Gonzalez Oliver remained in power and ignored the composer's presence. The bitterness from the battle to create this agency lingered on and Campos was increasingly isolated. His campaign in favor of the pro-statehood faction was a shock to the artistic and intellectual community and he became an untouchable. Before resigning from the agency he had looked about for other job possibilities. A return to the Institute was out of the question because of the negative passions that came from the senate hearings. He was increasingly depressed but was confident things would work out. In 1983 he was invited to lecture on Puerto Rican musical history at the Cayey Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The lecture was a big success and he was invited to join the faculty to teach and to organize an institute for the documentation of Latin American music. Campos settled in Cayey in 1983 and began an active role creating, organizing, sponsoring and participating in the cultural activities of this campus.

The 1980's saw his compositional activities continue and in 1983 he presented the "Madrigales de P.H. Hernandez" for Soprano, 2 violins, viola, cello, piano, flute and contrabass at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture and the work "Tiempo Sereno" for strings was commissioned and presented by the Padre Antonio Soler Chamber Ensemble. In 1984 he received a curious commission to write a five minute work for the Casals Festival. A work named Tureyareito was composed and premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra under Herbert Bloomstedt.11 In 1985 he retires from participation in the weekly program "Mirador Puertorriqueño" which he started in 1975. This program on the local educational network had a very successful decade long run. It featured a lively format with many of the finest classical, classical, folk and popular music performers appearing from time to time.

In 1986 Campos Parsi was invited by André Previn and Betty Carter to form part of a "committee of sponsors" of the American Music Center. Included in the roster were Justino Díaz, Leonard Bernstein, Itzhak Perlman, Mtislav Rostropovich, Aaron Copland and Benny Goodman. Campos saw this as a sign that "in the United States [people] think that Puerto Rican music is an important part of the national musical effort". In 1986 the work "Sonetos Sagrados" was completed and presented at the Interamerican Music Festival in San Juan. This work for soprano and woodwind quintet was recorded in 1987 by the Bronx Arts Ensemble and released by New World Records as a compact disc, and was played by them at the Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.12 In 1988 he prepared an electronic score for Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. This score was completely composed and recorded on a Roland Alpha Juno and it won the prize for "Best Sound" of 1988 by the Círculo de Críticos de Teatro.13 That same year he traveled to the island of Martinica to sit on the jury of their international guitar competition "Carrefour de la Gitarre".14 In 1989 he completed a commission for a ballet for full symphonic orchestra, La Calinda. Ballets Concierto requested that the composer write this ballet score in his earlier neo-classical style. This score was completed while he was "Visiting Distinguished Professor of Music" at California State University in San Bernardino. The dance was choreographed by Alberto Mendez and received laudatory reviews.15

Synthesized and computer music became an area of great interest for Campos. He was excited by the possibilities that many of the new computer-based tools offeredto creative musicians. He set about learning how to use sequencers, programs for editing and printing scores, and synthesis of musical sounds. He acquired a top of the line Kurzweill keyboard, an Apple computer, and sequencing software. Unfortunately, in 1993, he suffered an incapacitating cerebral infarction. He was hospitalized for several weeks and was left with impaired mobility. He struggled against this setback and made an impressive recovery. With great effort he tried to return to his normal life of teaching, writing, and composing. Another infarction set him back in 1995. This time he did not regain conciousness for a few months. The results of this stroke were devatating. Sadly this was the beginning of a series of infarctions that eventually took his life. The Hector Campos Parsi passed away January 30, 1998 in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Despite all of the controversy that engulfed his life a few years earlier, the heated passions, and the enmity caused by his political positions, his funeral was attended by most of the distinguised musicians and intellectuals of Puerto Rico. Many newspaper articles were published about his work, his life, and his achievements. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that this man had blazed a unique trail which enhanced the intellectual, musical, and artistic life of all Puerto Ricans. There was no denying that his musical legacy would live on for many years to come.


1. For a copy of the diploma see Appendix A of the original dissertation.
2. Lamoutte, S. "30 años del legado de Don Pablo". El Nuevo Día, June 6, 1986.
3. Degláns, K. Catálogo de Música Contemporanea de Puerto Rico, 56.
4. Batista, G. "Hector Campos Parsi". El Reportero, November 18-20, 1982.
5. no name. "Suspenden las vistas en ambiente de tensión". El Mundo, February 6, 1980.
6. See above.
7. "CRB obsequia a Ferré pluma firmó los proyectos culturales" El Mundo, May 31, 1980. See Appendix number 43 of original dissertation.
8. "Composer is asked to pull out of festival" San Juan Star, Babb, D. June 3, 1980.
9. "Cacophonous protest", editorial, San Juan Star newspaper, San Juan, P.R. June 3, 1980.
10. Friedman, R. "4 executive directors named to cultural agency" San Juan Star, February 13, 1981.
11. Arana, A. "Tureyareito: música de inspiración Taina para Festival". El Mundo, June 11, 1984.
12. Cherson, S. "Estreno de Campos Parsi, acontecimiento musical". El Nuevo Día, October 5, 1986.
13. Cidoncha, I. "Premio al mejor sonido" El Nuevo Día, December 28, 1988.
14. Lamoutte, S. "Campos Parsi miembro del jurado en el Festival de Martinica". El Nuevo Día, December 8, 1988.
15. Barrios, M. "Encuentro de lo clásico y lo contemporáneo". El Nuevo Día, October 5, 1990.


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