How and why one lady created the primary archive of Puerto Rican reggaeton : NPR

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How and why one lady created the primary archive of Puerto Rican reggaeton : NPR
How and why one lady created the primary archive of Puerto Rican reggaeton : NPR


An illustration of three women dancing to reggaeton music while one of them wears a shirt that says "Reggaeton is culture"

Cristina Merchán (Miti Miti)/Radio Ambulante

An illustration of three women dancing to reggaeton music while one of them wears a shirt that says "Reggaeton is culture"

Cristina Merchán (Miti Miti)/Radio Ambulante

Radio Ambulante is NPR’s Spanish-language longform podcast that tells uniquely Latin American tales.

For Patricia Velázquez, reggaeton is not only a musical style — it is a time machine.

The music “Gata Celosa” all the time has a method of transporting her again to her abuela‘s dwelling when she would watch music movies on TV. Rising up in Puerto Rico, the music turned the soundtrack to her life — till one query shifted all the things.

“How will you be a feminist and hearken to reggaeton?” a fellow faculty scholar requested Velázquez in the future. Velázquez considers herself to be 100% a feminist. The extra she realized about feminism in faculty, the extra it resonated with what she believed.

She had beforehand heard in regards to the critiques of the style being machista and objectifying girls. However as much as that time, she had by no means questioned whether or not feminism and reggaeton might coexist in her life. This query would finally lead Velázquez to dig deeper into the origins of the style and create an archive to cement its historic impression.

A style varieties in Puerto Rico

The origins of reggaeton aren’t all the time agreed upon. Some say it was born in Jamaica, Panama, New York Metropolis and, in fact, Puerto Rico. In reality, all of those locations had been elementary in evolving the style.

Member of the viewers wears a Puerto Rico flag as Dangerous Bunny performs at Yankee Stadium in 2022.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Photographs


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Roy Rochlin/Getty Photographs


Member of the viewers wears a Puerto Rico flag as Dangerous Bunny performs at Yankee Stadium in 2022.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Photographs

The model of reggaeton that emerged in Puerto Rico within the ’80s got here out of the marginalized areas of the island. The style fused American rap with the aesthetics of Jamaican and Panamanian reggae and was usually heard in neighborhoods with public housing for low-income households.

It was uncooked and confrontational and infrequently talked about what was taking place within the streets of Puerto Rico. However above all, it made reference to the social circumstances of the nation.

Within the ’90s, the style turned generally known as “underground.” Artists recorded their songs with DJs who had been answerable for producing and distributing a number of copies of CDs in golf equipment, at workplaces and of their neighborhoods.

It was round this time that the phrase “reggaeton” was used for the primary time on the island. In response to DJ Playero, who is taken into account one of many fathers of the style, Daddy Yankee used it in a music he recorded with him in 1994.

From indecency to “Gasolina”

Because the music gained recognition, some related it with a prison subculture due to its origins and lyrics. A conservative group referred to as Morality in Media even led a marketing campaign in opposition to reggaeton on the island. Puerto Rico’s police and the Nationwide Guard raided six document shops within the San Juan space in 1995 and confiscated tons of of underground cassettes and CDs for violating native obscenity legal guidelines.

A lot of reggaeton’s music movies had been additionally impressed by rap movies from the U.S. and featured girls in bikinis and thongs dancing perreo, a dance model involving dancers grinding in opposition to one another.

The style was critiqued for being misogynistic, however artists like Ivy Queen sought to dismantle that.

She broke via the machista noise and launched her first album En mi imperio in 1997. Ivy Queen needed to supply a brand new perspective within the style — one which linked with girls and recognized with their lived experiences. She even spoke about gender-based violence on the island. Ivy, nonetheless, was the exception.

Daddy Yankee performs onstage on the 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards in Miami.

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In 2004, reggaeton took middle stage as Daddy Yankee’s music “Gasolina” unfold like wildfire all through the world. Hip-hop labels started creating Latin imprints. And by 2006, reggaeton data had been promoting a lot that a number of artists acquired one of the vital recognitions within the music business: gold, platinum and double platinum data. The style additionally reached the Latin Grammys that yr, the place the Puerto Rican group Calle 13 gained three awards.

Velázquez grapples with the query

In her teenagers, Velázquez was not conscious of the hypersexualization of girls in reggaeton songs. It wasn’t till faculty that she started to dissect what among the lyrics had been saying again to her, beginning with “Mujeres Talentosas” by Luigi 21 Plus.

In it, he says in Spanish, “If Eve hadn’t eaten the apple, life could be with out malice and far more healthy. However since that b**** ate the fruit, that is why there are sluts right this moment.”

A member of a feminist collective holds an indication that reads in “I Need My Sisters Alive” in Spanish throughout an illustration in opposition to sexual violence in entrance of the governor’s mansion in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2021.

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A member of a feminist collective holds an indication that reads in “I Need My Sisters Alive” in Spanish throughout an illustration in opposition to sexual violence in entrance of the governor’s mansion in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2021.

Ricardo Arduengo/Getty Photographs

Within the days that adopted her faculty classmate’s query, Velázquez had a little bit of an id disaster and commenced to query whether or not she was much less of a feminist for being a fan of the music.

Whereas pursuing her grasp’s diploma, Velázquez’s professor informed the category to write down a couple of subject that angered them after which examine it. She selected to research how Puerto Rican girls associated to reggaeton, and the way they noticed themselves represented in that music.

She did not discover a lot on that subject. However the analysis for the challenge led her to a realization about her reggaedom fandom and the style’s problems with sexism.

Very like how proponents of hip-hop in many years previous had argued that violence depicted in lyrics was not selling or creating violence in actual life; somewhat, it portrayed the violence that already existed. The identical was true of reggaeton, she thought.

“There isn’t a gender-based violence as a result of reggaeton exists, somewhat gender-based violence exists and is mirrored in reggaeton, and in lots of different elements of society,” Velázquez stated. “Not in music, however on tv on a regular basis, within the newspapers, on Instagram. We see gender-based violence in all places.”

She additionally believes that the ladies depicted in reggaeton songs should not passive, however sexually energetic. Finally, she says that whichever relationship a girl decides to have with the style is a private one.

“My feminism exactly permits me … to resolve what I like, what I hearken to, what I dance to, what I do not dance to, and it offers me that authority over my physique and my choices,” she says.

A digital archive is born

Velázquez had come to phrases along with her inner conflicts over reggaeton. However the class challenge had uncovered one other lingering problem she felt pushed to deal with: There wasn’t that a lot analysis on the market about reggaeton. Every little thing she discovered was crucial of the style. Articles referred to as it easy, repetitive, offensive and missing in high quality.

However Velázquez strongly believed that reggaeton is a crucial a part of Puerto Rican tradition. If no sources existed, she must make one herself.

Years later, whereas interning on the Smithsonian Heart for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington D.C., Velázquez met Ashley Oliva Mayor, a historian and curator of Latin music.

One among Mayor’s targets was to develop Latino illustration within the museum’s music assortment. And whereas the archives replicate music historical past, reggaeton was not part of it.

After viewing lots of the Smithsonian’s Latin music objects, Velázquez was impressed to create a group of objects that replicate the historical past and milestones of reggaeton. In November 2019, Velázquez launched the Hasta ‘Bajo challenge, which is called after one of the shouted and sung phrases at reggaeton events.

It started as an Instagram account with a mission to focus on the style’s worth in Puerto Rican tradition. At first, Velázquez regarded to different reggaeton followers to assist her construct out a digital archive. With the hashtag #SomosHastaBajo, she requested folks to ship images and tales of concert events, cassettes, flyers or another reggaeton objects they’d saved.

As soon as Mayor caught wind of the challenge, she wrote to Velázquez asking to be part of it. The 2 started assembly on Zoom, and had been quickly conducting digital panels about reggaeton and perreo.

One such panel was even devoted to speaking about reggaeton and feminism referred to as, “With out girls, there isn’t any reggaeton.” It was very properly acquired, Velázquez recalled.

A reggaeton museum on the horizon

After their viewers continued to develop on social media, folks quickly started asking if they might donate their bodily objects. A kind of folks was Juan Arroyo, the founding father of Reggaeton World, a web site devoted to disseminating music and its lyrics. Arroyo donated over 300 journal articles, CDs and press kits.

Velázquez and Mayor collected the objects and rented a big acclimatized warehouse to retailer all these objects. This was simply the beginning of a bodily assortment that now contains live performance tickets, posters, magazines, films and live performance DVDs.

There at the moment are eight folks devoted to the maintenance of the archive. The group offers talks at colleges, universities and have even spoken on the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico.

And whereas the archive continues to be in its early phases and is constant to develop its bodily archive, Velázquez hopes that is all simply the beginning of a bigger reggaeton museum in the future.

So sooner or later, when somebody like Velázquez desires to find extra in regards to the historical past of reggaeton, they will flip to Hasta ‘Bajo as a useful useful resource.

Take heed to Radio Ambulante on Spotify or Apple Podcasts to comply with extra Latin American tales like these.

Escucha a Radio Ambulante en Spotify o Apple Podcasts.

This Radio Ambulante episode was produced by Lisette Arevalo. It was edited by Camila Segura, Natalia Sánchez-Loayza and Daniel Alarcón and fact-checked by Bruno Scelza.



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