The intersection of Church and Chapel was alive with Caribbean music Saturday afternoon, as passersby gathered to listen to local ensemble Movimiento Cultural.

Movimiento Cultural is a local ensemble of dancers and musicians who specialize in Bomba, an afro-Puerto Rican style of music and dance and the “oldest in the Caribbean,” according to Cristina Lugo, a performer with the group. On Saturday afternoon, the ensemble performed at a pop-up event at the southeast corner of the New Haven Green.

“We’re a fairly young group based here in New Haven, and we just enjoy sharing our culture,” Lugo said.

Bomba, which originated some 400 years ago during the introduction of slaves to Puerto Rico, is a style of music comprised of drummers and dancers performing as a unit. Slaves, who often did not speak the same tongue, shared one common language of drumming, Lugo explained. They would take used barrels, cover them with dried goatskin and create their own Bomba-style drums.

During Saturday’s performance, drummers arranged in a large semicircle and dancers dressed in floor-length skirts — some colorful, some all-white — performed, to the enjoyment of onlookers.

Yale students interviewed by the News both praised for the event.

“I’m just so happy to be able to witness, respect and participate in this gift of music and dance and song that [Movimiento Cultural] is giving to the Green today,” Amy Nichols ’20, who came upon the performance by chance, said. “I’m part of the Samish Indian Nation, and I’ve been really missing home and traditional dances recently. This is certainly different, but it invokes a lot of nostalgia for me.”

Kevin Diaz, the director of Movimiento Cultural, founded the group three years ago. The group offers free classes on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Blatchley Avenue substation — a police station with community space. However, Diaz said that he hopes the group will eventually find their own space in the Greater New Haven area.

The group regularly puts on workshops at universities and high schools all over the state, including Yale. According to Diaz, the group is planning to join forces with the Yale School of Drama to put on a play called “La Negra” in November. The group is also set to perform at the Peabody Museum’s annual Fiesta Latina in early October.

Onlookers were invited to participate in Saturday’s pop-up. Given makeshift skirts by the group, participants and performers alike danced to the beat of the drums.

“People can get shy because people are watching,” Lugo said. “I tell them that it’s okay, because you’re not dancing for anyone else. You’re dancing for yourself.”

Movimiento Cultural was established in 2016.

Leila Iskandarani |