A hybrid of reggae and rap, reggaeton is a music with Spanish-language lyrics and Latin-Caribbean aesthetics that has taken Latin America, the United States, and the world by storm. Superstars including Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Ivy Queen garner international attention, while aspiring performers use digital technologies to create and circulate their own tracks. Reggaeton is the first critical assessment of this wildly popular genre. Journalists, scholars, and artists delve into reggaeton’s local roots and its transnational dissemination; they parse the genre’s aesthetics, particularly as they differ from those of hip-hop; and they explore the debates about race, nation, gender, and sexuality generated by the music and its associated cultural practices, from dance to fashion.
The collection opens with an in-depth exploration of the social and sonic currents that coalesced into reggaeton in Puerto Rico during the 1990s. Contributors consider reggaeton in relation to that island, Panama, Jamaica, and New York; Cuban society, Miami’s hip-hop scene, and Dominican identity; and other genres including reggae en español, underground, and dancehall reggae. The reggaeton artist Tego Calderón provides a powerful indictment of racism in Latin America, while the hip-hop artist Welmo Romero Joseph discusses the development of reggaeton in Puerto Rico and his refusal to embrace the upstart genre. The collection features interviews with the DJ/rapper El General and the reggae performer Renato, as well as a translation of “Chamaco’s Corner,” the poem that served as the introduction to Daddy Yankee’s debut album. Among the volume’s striking images are photographs from Miguel Luciano’s series Pure Plantainum, a meditation on identity politics in the bling-bling era, and photos taken by the reggaeton videographer Kacho López during the making of the documentary Bling’d: Blood, Diamonds, and Hip-Hop.
Contributors. Geoff Baker, Tego Calderón, Carolina Caycedo, Jose Davila, Jan Fairley, Juan Flores, Gallego (José Raúl González), Félix Jiménez, Kacho López, Miguel Luciano, Wayne Marshall, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Alfredo Nieves Moreno, Ifeoma C. K. Nwankwo, Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Raquel Z. Rivera, Welmo Romero Joseph, Christoph Twickel, Alexandra T. Vazquez
Monday, December 22, 2008
Program in American Studies Graduate Student Conference
May 2, 2009
The Idea is thus defined as a structure. A structure or an idea is a "complex theme," an internal multiplicity—in other words, a system of multiple, non-localisable connections between different elements which is incarnated in real relations and actual terms.
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition
We got our thing, but it's just part of the big thing.
Zenobia, "Corner Boys," The Wire Season Four
What are the various "complexes" that inform American Studies, and how can American Studies help us understand the strategies and subjects of "the complex"? From entrenched systems of power to the vagaries of psychological fixation, this conference will foster a conversation on the structures, exchanges, and perceptions (or misperceptions) that continue to shape and reshape American Studies. It will also open a space in which the topics, methodologies, and preoccupations of American Studies can begin to interrogate the "complex" as a mode of cultural formation and connectivity (or the lack thereof). Taking interdisciplinarity itself as a topic for discussion, this conference will use the "complex" to explore the possibilities and limitations of both physical and conceptual boundaries.
Keynote Speaker: Asst. Prof. Mark Goble, English Department, University of California, Berkeley
Please submit a 500-word abstract and your c.v. to Lindsay Reckson and Nika Elder at AMSconference@gmail.com by January 15th, 2009. Papers will be due two weeks prior to the conference for circulation, and should be no longer than 15 minutes.
Possible iterations of the complex might include (but are not limited to):
Freudian and Jungian Complexes; the Military-Industrial Complex; the Panopticon; Markets & Circulation; Globalization; Infrastructure; Conspiracy Theory and Surveillance; Stage Sets and Crime Scenes; Publics and Counter-publics; the Academy, the Church, the Factory; Networking & Collaboration; Canons; Semiotics; Obscurantism; Discourse Networks; Circuits; Interfaces; Cyborgs; Media Theory; the Wire; Systems Theory; Grids; Maps and Blueprints; Collections
Thursday, December 18, 2008
From New York City:
We have just occupied New School University.
We liberate this space for ourselves, and all those who want to join us, for our general autonomous use. We take the university in explicit solidarity with those occupying the universities and streets in Greece, Italy, France and Spain.
This occupation begins as a response to specific conditions at the New School, the corporatization of the university and the impoverishment of education in general. However, it is not just this university but also New York City that is in crisis: in the next several months, thousands of us will be losing our jobs, while housing remains unaffordable and unavailable to many and the cost of living skyrockets.
So we stress that the general nature of these intolerable conditions exists across the spectrum of capitalist existence, in our universities and our cities, in all of our social relations. For this reason, what begins tonight at the New School cannot, and should not, be contained here.
Thus: with this occupation, we inaugurate a wave of occupations in New York City and the United States, a coming wave of occupations, blockades, and strikes in this time of crisis.
Be assured, this is only the beginning,
With solidarity and love from New York to Greece,
To Italy, France and Spain,
To the coming insurrection.
-The occupied New School
Check out NYT coverage of the Occupation: "Protest at the New School Seeks Kerrey’s Ouster"
Also see Gov. Patterson's tax and fee hikes on the young: "Fees, taxes, outlook would make NY tough on young"
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Apparently Jim Jones was so inspired by Obama's win that he decided to clean up his language.
Jim confessed that the election inspired him to drop the word “nigga” from his vocabulary—where it was a nearly ubiquitous presence—and replace it with “Obama.” He gave me a few examples: “What up, my Obama?” “Yo, did you see them Obamas last night?” “Now that’s a real Obama.”Now given that Toure was so on point about putting Soulja Boys young dumb ass on blast I was a little shocked by how much weight he gave to Jim Jones' decision...
If words have power, and the slang we use says something about the people we are, then Jimmy’s linguistic U-turn indicates a very powerful shift: away from self-describing as niggas (rebellious, angry, ignorant, hunted), and toward self-describing as Obamas (cool, intelligent, humble, powerful). Away from a self-appellation that reminds us of how America has wronged us, and toward a self-appellation suggesting that we are all reflections of, and extensions of, a shining example of black excellence.I don't know who is buggin' more Jim Jones or Toure.
Change is on the way.
Check out: "What Up My Obama?"
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The last line is brilliant "gay marriages are going to save the economy."
Welcome to the homonormative neoliberal moment mi gente...
*Tip of the fitted to Guanabee
I brought up the point with him that many of the artists say "Arab Money" rather than the original "A-rab Money." (although as Wayne pointed out Wayne keeps the hard A towards the end). I wondered whether pressure from the Arab community was the cause of the change. I also wonder whether someone might have told Busta that A-rab is a derogatory term and not the correct pronunciation of Arab.
Wayne had asked in an E-mail whether there was actual Arabic being used on the hook tool to which I responded:
There is totally Arabic in the song BISMILLAH AL-RAHMAN AL-RAHEEM which is at the beginning of every verse. The phrase signifies “in the name of Allah, the most gracious, most merciful” it is the first verse of almost every chapter of the Qur’an and is typically associated with daily prayers. A few of the artists are Muslim and would know the significance of the phrase, so why include it in a song about stacking chips and getting ass? It’s kinda crazy! I’m actually posting on it tomorrow.
To my untrained ear it definitely sounded like the common phrase uttered in religious contexts, but I was a little off. Wayne asked some of his students who are fluent in Arabic whether it was actual Arabic and they disagreed saying that there were words that might come from Arabic but were mispronounced or out of context. They had an interesting take about the way that "Arab" and "Muslim" are conflated in the song which I really appreciated.
There may be some words in the “Arabic verse” that might come from Arabic, but its definitely not Arabic. i’d say they recite words that are directly taken from Islam (or Christianity, for the Arabic speaking Christians) like hamdulilla - thank god, or bismillah-(pronounced bishmililah in the song) in the name of god. So i’d say these words might be taken from Arabic, but they r not pronounced in an Arabic accent… it sounds much more like something of indian music to me.
I join what Lisa wrote, and I’ll just add the word ignorance….because the “Arabic” (dangerous, terrorist) stereotype goes together with Islam, but the truth is, and most people are not aware of the fact that most Muslims in the world are NOT EVEN ARABS! and thanks to Busta now, no one will go search and find this out so the Muslim Arab stereotype is here to stay along with “Arab Money”
i definitely agree with you guys. its a very sad example of how brainwashed a lot of artists are by the media, and then brainwash the people. they can’t really tell the different between Muslims vs Muslim Arabs vs Christian Arabs Muslims etc.. so we hear the terms “hamdulila’ ‘bismila’ ‘habibi’ i have to say that i have met a lot of people that associated me with this words.. so its very common stereotype..
And it’s important to remember, as Marisol notes, that guys like Busta, Akon, etc., are well acquainted with various Arabic words and phrases for various reasons: whether from their own participation in or acquaintance with (African-)American Islam (or Senegalese Islam in Akon’s case) — notably a lot of the comments on the YouTube videos debate which of these artists is actually Muslim — or the longstanding colloquial use among African-Americans of greetings like “salaam alaikum” (which Busta throws into the mix here).
I did want to point out some of the problematic ways that some of the artists evoke Orientalist imagery and women in subservient roles. Just a few quick examples...
T-Pain saying "I drop money bombs like the Taliban"
Swizz saying "she call me her habibi while she feeling me linguine/left right left right get that A-rab dance poppin' right"
Akon saying "I got that Arab money/ waking up to my concubines and my money"
I also find it fascinating that Dubai is becoming emblematic of the Arab world in hip-hop discourse (in the remix Diddy talks about buying Dubai and swimming with sharks, although I didn't quite understand the connection and Busta talks about Dubai and the UAE). I've had a few discussions with Michael Ralph about the song and he says that its curious that Dubai becomes the symbol since Dubai is very much a space predicated on the idea of fantasy, globalization, and neoliberalism. I wonder how that discourse is enabled by and in response to rhetoric about the Arab world being associated with danger and terrorism as Noam alluded to in his response above.
Please check out Wayne's whole post at wayneandwax.com
Monday, December 1, 2008
sorry about being M.I.A finals are so crazy right now!
In the mean time I want to give a shout out to the new Duke University Press anthology Reggaeton coming out in Feb. 2009. Its edited by Raquel Rivera, Wayne Marshall, and Deborah Pacini Hernandez.
From Duke UP:
A hybrid of reggae and rap, reggaeton is a music with Spanish-language lyrics and Latin-Caribbean aesthetics that has taken Latin America, the United States, and the world by storm. Superstars including Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Ivy Queen garner international attention, while aspiring performers use digital technologies to create and circulate their own tracks. Reggaeton is the first critical assessment of this wildly popular genre. Journalists, scholars, and artists delve into reggaeton’s local roots and its transnational dissemination; they parse the genre’s aesthetics, particularly as they differ from those of hip-hop; and they explore the debates about race, nation, gender, and sexuality generated by the music and its associated cultural practices, from dance to fashion.“I cannot overstate how critically important this volume is. It captures the synergies of a musical and cultural movement that few have seriously grappled with, even as the sounds and styles of reggaeton have dominated the air space of so many urban locales.”—Mark Anthony Neal, author of Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic
“This anthology introduces a chapter in hip hop history that brings it all back home, back to our transnational Afro-Spanish-speaking countries and diasporas and ‘hoods where young people are going through their hip-hop ecstasies and traumas, but in their own language and in their own unique and hitherto unknown style.”—Juan Flores, author of From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity, from the preface to Reggaeton
I saw a panel presentation with Félix Jiménez, Raquel Z. Rivera, Welmo Romero, and Alfredo Nieves Moreno at the PRSA 2008 and I can say with confidence that this book is going to change the game. You can pre-order the book from Duke UP and I suggest you do so if you are at all interested in popular music or reggaeton.
For more info check out Reggaetonica.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Ari [Emanuel], who, of course, is a role model for the Ari Gold character on “Entourage,” often begins sentences in the middle. Some sentences wander off into the night and end with a hang-up.
Read: Will the Obama White House Seem like Entourage?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Originally published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)
Political pundits have celebrated president-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping and historic victory as evidence that the United States has taken an initial step toward a “post-racial” or “colorblind” society.
Round-up of "post-racial" television news reports.
In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Shelby Steele provocatively asked, “Doesn't a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn't it imply a ‘post-racial’ America?” Analysts on both sides of the political spectrum have answered yes. Phillip Morris of the Cleveland Plains Dealer declared, “America has completed its evolution into a racial meritocracy.” While Jonathan Kay of Canada's National Post wrote, “Electing a black president won’t instantly cure ‘the ugly racial wound left by America’s history’ (as The Economist put it in its Obama endorsement). But it will at least prove that America has finally become a fundamentally post-racial society—a place where tribal loyalties are based on ideology, not skin color.” Meanwhile, another conservative columnist, Laura Hollis of Townhall.com, flatly claimed, “Racism is dead.”
Most interesting, and perhaps troubling, is the way Latin America is being used by observers to symbolize what a "post-racial" future will look like for the United States. In a syndicated report for McClatchy Newspapers, Tyler Bridges remarked, “This year’s election presents intriguing story lines for Latin Americans. Race is a less important issue here than it is the United States, but many dark-skinned Latin Americans are quietly cheering for Obama.”
U.S. commentators most often point to the concept of mestizaje as an example of Latin America’s seamless racial integration. Mestizaje, or racial mixing, is often seen as diametrically different to historical U.S. legal sanctions against miscegenation—the so-called "one-drop" rule. Mestizaje is cited as a prime example of how Latin Americans have been able to move beyond race. Although mestizaje has different historical roots and trajectories within different Latin American countries, there has been a rhetorical emphasis across the board on a kind harmonious racial exceptionalism at work in Latin America.
The everyday practices and lived experiences of many Latin Americans, however, paint a different picture. Writing for NACLA, Marisol de la Cadena notes, "One of the most puzzling, disconcerting phenomena that the non-native visitor confronts while traveling in Latin America is the relative ease with which pervasive and very visible discriminatory practices coexist with the denial of racism.”
It was that sense of disconcerting confusion that bloggers and journalists felt when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez repeatedly referred to Obama not by his name, but as simply “el negro,” during a press conference in March. One part from Chávez’s speech was particularly telling. Roughly translated, he told reporters, “For a Black man to become President of the United States is no small thing… We are not asking him to be a revolutionary or a socialist. No, [we ask] only that this Black man who is about to become President of the United States realize the circumstances that this world is living in. From right here and right now we who are Indian, Black, Caribbean and South American are sending positive energy to el hombre negro.”
Although Chávez was clearly expressing excitement—even solidarity—over the prospect of an African-American holding the highest position in U.S. government, the fact that Obama remained basically nameless and was only referred to by his race throughout the press conference is a telling example of the seemingly innocuous discriminatory practices and racism that permeate everyday life in Latin America.
Chávez’s statements were so shocking to many people precisely because he was so open about referring to Obama only in terms of his race in an international and public setting, disrupting the idea of Latin America as a kind of “post-racial” utopia. Some might dismiss Chávez's comment as a linguistic misfire attributable to Latin America's unique racial lexicon. But such a dismissal is a missed opportunity to poke holes in the underlying myth of racial democracy that is clearly at work.
As one blogger quipped, “We know some might find it tempting to dismiss Chávez’s statements as a product of cultural difference in talking about race, but this is a man who is in charge of a nation – not your uncle Tito watching Sabado Gigante.” It was not the first time a Latin American national leader has made offensive remarks about race on the world stage. Recall President Vicente Fox's statement about Mexicans doing jobs in the United States that "even blacks don't want." Or when Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso publicly claimed to have some African ancestry by explaining he had "one foot in the kitchen." Moments like these lift the thin veil of racial democracy in Latin America and exposes the long road ahead on issues of race and social justice in the region.
The promotion of mestizaje and racial democracy in Latin America has often existed alongside, and as part of, the suppression of populations of African and indigenous descent. National identities based on mestizaje served the dual purpose of "uniting" fractious nations under one banner while at the same time promoting the mass marginalization of racial and ethnic groups by denying their discrimination.
Several scholars have helped dispel the myth of racial democracy in Latin America by documenting what is often referred to as blanqueamiento (whitening), or mejorando la raza (improving the race). In one example, blanqueamiento is actively sought out by marrying a lighter-skinned person, thereby producing lighter, racially mixed offspring. Sociologist Ginetta E. B. Candelario has traced the many ways blanqueamiento is promoted in Dominican society. As evidence, she points to the range of skin creams and hair products marketed to produce a whiter-looking phenotype among Dominican women.
Any observer scratching the least bit below the surface would realize Latin America is far from a racial democracy. Statistical indicators consistently show indigenous and African populations in Latin American countries at the very bottom of the social and economic ladder. Proposing Latin America as model for U.S. racial harmony is absurd, and doing so negates the current climate of colorblind racism still operating in the United States.
NY Times To Race: Drop Dead.
Sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva writes about how rhetoric of a color-blind society functions to perpetuate racial inequality without appearing or sounding deliberately racist. Color-blind racism, or the idea that race is no longer a significant issue deserving of our efforts or attention, works to justify the continued marginalization and disenfranchisement of people of color in the United States.
As Moya Bailey, an activist academic, points out in a recent blog post: “Structural racism depends on the exceptions (Obama, Oprah, etc.) to hide the rule that is inequity…. So I pledge to stay vigilant, critical and skeptical. I pledge also to be active, visible, and hopeful for the world I wish to see. It will take more than one man’s rise to power to undo centuries old structural oppressions built along the axes of race, gender, sexuality, ability and age. The struggle continues.”Racial hierarchies are still at work in the United States and Latin America, and this injustice will continue until these hierarchies are actively deconstructed.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Britney has a song one her new album called "Mmm Papi"
I'm scared, you? check out the lyrics...
You can come take me awayWell, good to know Britney is doing her part to help keep the Latin Lover alive and well through bad pop music.
There’s no pressure play all day
Grab me tight and don’t let go
Mmm Papa! Mmm Papa! Mmm Papi!
Mmm Papi! Mmm Papi! Ooh Papi
Ooh Lovey Ooh Lovey Ooh Papi!
Now see I’m Mami
And that makes you Papi
And that makes us lovey
What do you all think?
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Well, either way anytime Soulja Boy opens his mouth I generally feel a sense of dread and concern about what frighteningly horrific thing he will say next. This shit tops the list. During a recent interview Soulja Boy said to Touré "Shout out to the slave masters! Without them we'd still be in Africa.”
Check out Touré's reaction:
Last week in Atlanta, I got to interview Soulja Boy Tell Em. I found out just how young he really is. He was one of about ten rappers I interviewed in one day for my BET show, The Black Carpet. I decided it'd be fun to give all the rappers part of the Proust questionnaire. I thought it'd be a way to get beyond image and into who they really are. Most of the guys gave good, thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive answers. I asked Juelz Santana, “How would you like to die?” He said, "Loved."
Then came Soulja Boy Tell Em. I asked him, “What historical figure do you most hate?” He was stumped. I said, "Others have said Hitler, bin Laden, the slave masters..." He said, "Oh wait! Hold up! Shout out to the slave masters! Without them we'd still be in Africa."
My jaw, at this point, was on the ground."We wouldn't be here," he continued, having no idea how far in it he'd stepped, "to get this ice and tattoos."
Wow. Never mind that diamonds come from Africa. Never mind that there were many generations of pain in between leaving Africa and getting diamonds. Never mind that the long-term cataclysmic effects of subtracting about tens of millions of young, strong people from Africa over the course of a couple of centuries is a large part of the reason why Africa now appears so distasteful to you. Never mind all that, Soulja Boy. You put country first.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Dancing with the Reggaeton Vote
by Bennett Gordon
Until recently, the Puerto Rican dancehall music reggaeton was better known for its sexualized dance moves than political messaging. That changed when musician Daddy Yankee, complete with signature sunglasses, stood proudly on stage with John McCain, talked about immigration policy, and endorsed the Arizona senator for president.
Now, reggaetoneros like Daddy Yankee have taken center stage in the 2008 election, Marisol LeBrón writes for NACLA. Barack Obama’s campaign quickly garnered endorsements from other prominent reggaeton artists including Don Omar, Julio Voltio and Puerto Rican-American rapper Fat Joe. The International Herald Tribune reports that Daddy Yankee turned to more local politics, moderating a televised gubernatorial debate on the island that was designed to attract young voters.
Unhappy that reggaetoneros “are being used in an effort to attract youth to a political system that systematically ignores their concerns,” NACLA reports that protesters showed up at Daddy Yankee’s moderated debate, burning his albums in defiance. One artist Sietenueve released a scathing single called “Quedate Callao” (“Shut Up”) insulting Daddy Yankee for his political ignorance (video available below).
The problem wasn’t that reggaetoneros were engaging in politics. According to NACLA, Daddy Yankee’s political endorsements and debate moderating “threatened to turn reggaetón into a hollow signifier, separating it from its radical and subversive potential.”
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Her new book Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race examines contemporary constructions of Latino citizenship.
From NYU Press:
Illegal immigrant, tax burden, job stealer. Patriot, family oriented, hard worker, model consumer. Ever since Latinos became the largest minority in the U.S. they have been caught between these wildly contrasting characterizations leaving us to wonder: Are Latinos friend or foe?
Latino Spin cuts through the spin about Latinos supposed values, political attitudes, and impact on U.S. national identity to ask what these caricatures suggest about Latinos shifting place in the popular and political imaginary. Noted scholar Arlene Dávila illustrates the growing consensus among pundits, advocates, and scholars that Latinos are not a social liability, that they are moving up and contributing, and that, in fact, they are more American than the Americans. But what is at stake in such a sanitized and marketable representation of Latinidad? Dávila follows the spin through the realm of politics, think tanks, Latino museums, and urban planning to uncover whether they effectively challenge the growing fear over Latinos supposedly dreadful effect on the integrity of U.S. national identity. What may be some of the intended or unintended consequences of these more marketable representations in regard to current debates over immigration?
With particular attention to what these representations reveal about the place and role of Latinos in the contemporary politics of race, Latino Spin highlights the realities they skew and the polarization they effect between Latinos and other minorities, and among Latinos themselves along the lines of citizenship and class. Finally, by considering Latinos in all their diversity, including their increasing financial and geographic disparities, Dávila can present alternative and more empowering representations of Latinidad to help attain true political equity and intraracial coalitions.
Davila will be giving a talk at King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (53 Washington Sq. South, New York, NY, 10012) on December 4th @ 6:30pm.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
In the meantime, while I get my act together please check out Raquel Cepeda's on point Village Voice article "The N-Word is Flourishing Among Generation Hip-Hop Latinos."
*tip of the fitted to Reggaetonica
Monday, October 20, 2008
Who would have thought when Daddy Yankee released "Gasolina" in 2004 that four short years later the song would become the butt of jokes about John McCain and offshore drilling? If there were still sectors of U.S. society that didn’t know about reggaetón, this year’s presidential race certainly changed that.
Daddy Yankee (Raymond Ayala) endorses McCain before a shrieking crowd of high school girls in Arizona.
Daddy Yankee caused a stir in August when he publicly endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The reggaetonero recently made headlines again when he agreed to help moderate a debate on October 9 among candidates for governor of Puerto Rico as part of the "Vota o Quédate Callao" (Vote or Shut Up) initiative to get young voters to the polls in November.
Not to be outdone, Barack Obama has also had a number of reggaetón artists come out in support of his campaign, most notably Julio Voltio and Don Omar who appeared in the video "Podemos con Obama," directed by Yerba Buena's Andres Levin. Calle 13 is even rocking the vote over at MTV. The duo can be seen in ads on MTV and MTV Tr3s urging young people to listen to their new album on the way to the polls.
Does this signal the emergence of a "reggaetón vote"? Pundits have wondered about the weight of the "hip-hop vote" in this year’s election, particularly regarding Barack Obama’s potential appeal to young African American and Latino/a voters. But in 2012 will political pundits be asking candidates what they’re doing to win the "reggaetón vote"?
Maybe. But much like the "hip-hop vote," the idea of a "reggaetón vote" is more complicated than it seems, and it defies simplistic categorization. Politicians’ use of reggaetón in speaking to the so-called "Latino Vote" revealed stark cleavages within the Latino/a community along lines of nationality, race, class, gender, legal status, and age. Indeed, the strategy backfired in many ways and exposed the messy complexities and divisions within the Latino/a community that often gets lumped together with monolithic labels like "Latino/a" and "Hispanic."
Although some analysts continue to question reggaetón’s political potential, this election season confirms the genre’s growing politicization. What that means, exactly, depends on who is doing the politicking.
Daddy Yankee, "El Cartel: The Big Boss," 2007, Interscope Records.
When McCain appeared with Daddy Yankee in an attempt to woo Latino/a voters, controversy erupted over whether Daddy Yankee—and by extension reggaetón—could or should represent the Latino/a community politically. In public responses to the endorsement some felt that reggaetón was something too Puerto Rican or too Caribbean to fully represent the entire Latino/a community.1 Others felt that reggaetón was too "low-class," saying they did not want to be associated with references to drugs, violence, and aggressive sexuality.
Others felt that as a U.S. citizen Daddy Yankee was not immediately affected by immigration policy and, therefore, had no right to endorse McCain because of his stance on immigration. Still others wondered why Daddy Yankee’s endorsement even garnered so much attention since as a Puerto Rican resident he is barred from even casting a ballot for president on Election Day.
Likewise, recent events in Puerto Rico have sparked further debate over reggaetón’s political potential. Many youths are resisting the cooptation of reggaetón by the political mainstream and using the music to channel concerns and challenge the status quo.
A group of young artists staged a protest outside of the Puerto Rican Convention Center against the gubernatorial debate being held inside on October 9. They organized not in protest to reggaetón’s cooptation or even Daddy Yankee—though they did burn his albums—but in protest to the hypocrisy expressed by Puerto Rico’s four major political parties.
Listen to Sietenueve's "Quédate Callao":
The protestors denounced how reggaetoneros, like Daddy Yankee, are being used in an effort to attract youth to a political system that systematically ignores their concerns. Sietenueve, a hip-hop artist based in the barrio of Villa Palmeras in Santurce, composed a biting critique of Daddy Yankee entitled "Quedate Callao" accusing him of greed and political ignorance. While Yankee implores youth to "Vote or Shut Up," Sietenueve's song title suggests his colleague do the latter. At the end of the song, he raps, "How can you endorse a guy that wants to bring us more war, more blood, more death. It's real sad. Brother, if you don't know your history, educate yourself. Or just shut up."
Although urban music such as hip hop and reggaetón is seen by many as little more than apolitical party music, artists like Sietenueve, other musicians, and their fans in Puerto Rico are increasingly using it as a platform for social justice and anti-establishment political engagement. This point is made poignantly visible with "Ninguno, el candidato de los hip-hoppers" (Nobody, the hip-hoppers candidate).
The "Ninguno pa’ Gobernador" (Nobody, for Governor) campaign is an intervention by political theater group Papel Machete. Much like the "None of the Above" vote that Puerto Ricans made famous during the 1998 plebiscite to determine Puerto Rico’s status, Ninguno’s supporters are urging voters to once again turn to "la quinta" (the fifth)—in protest to the four main parties—and write-in "Ninguno" on the November 4 gubernatorial ballot.
Sietenueve and other high-profile ningunistas joined the Friends of Ninguno Committee in the protest outside the convention center during the gubernatorial debate to highlight the lack of representation all four candidates offered voters.
As one protester told Primera Hora, "In our country, political parties work within an imposed limited structure, making electoral participation an act of selection between candidates, who, once elected, automatically become puppets of the rich."
While all the candidates claim that they know the struggles of the young, the working-class, and the marginalized of Puerto Rican society, their platforms are largely indistinguishable from the status quo and desires of elites. Protestors provocatively asked, "Which candidate for governor comes from the barrios? Which one of them works in the factories? Is there a true representative of the worker, the woman, or the poor?" The answer is of course Ninguno. As Ninguno himself states, "Todos prometen, Ninguno Cumple" (Everyone promises, Nobody delivers).
While U.S.-based Latino/a youth and Puerto Rican youth are using music as a vehicle for political expression and action, they are also actively resisting superficial attempts made by politicians to win their votes through token musical shout-outs, while casting them aside in terms of actual policy.
Indeed, Daddy Yankee’s endorsement of McCain as well as his participation in the gubernatorial debate caused outrage among many young people because it threatened to turn reggaetón into a hollow signifier, separating it from its radical and subversive potential.
This election season shows politicians will not win the reggaetón vote through cultural pandering. To win over this growing group they will actually have to address the issues affecting U.S.-based Latino/a and island-based Puerto Rican youth with concrete policies. Dancing perreo on stage for votes isn’t going to cut it—and, in fact, it never did.
1. These "responses" are based on coverage of the endorsement by mainstream media such as Primera Hora, The Washington Post, Newsday, and New York Times, and their readers’ comments as well as Latino/a themed blogs and forums such as Latin Americanist and Vivir Latino.
Latin American Studies Association (LASA), the largest association of scholars working in the field of Latin American Studies, sent a letter to Barack Obama with suggestions about policy toward region. Spot on. [Tip of the fitted to Vivir Latino]
Check out the letter...
October 12, 2008
Dear Senator Obama:
We write to offer our congratulations on your campaign and to express our hope that as the next president of the United States you will take advantage of an historic opportunity to improve relations with Latin America. As scholars of the region, we also wish to convey our analysis regarding the process of change now underway in Latin America.
Just as the people of the United States have begun to debate basic questions regarding the sort of society they want-- thanks in part to your own candidacy but also owing to the magnitude of the current financial crisis-- so too have the people of Latin America. In fact, a recent round of intense debate about a just and fair society has been going on in Latin America for more than a decade, and the majority are opting, like you and so many of us in the United States, for hope and change. As academics personally and professionally committed to development and democracy in Latin America, we are hopeful that during your presidency the United States can become a partner rather than an adversary to the positive changes already under way in the hemisphere.
The current impetus for change in Latin America is a rejection of the model of economic growth that has been imposed in most countries since the early 1980s, a model that has concentrated wealth, relied unsuccessfully on unrestricted market forces to solve deep social problems and undermined human welfare. The current rejection of this model is broad-based and democratic. In fact, contemporary movements for change in Latin America reveal significantly increased participation by workers and peasants, women, Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples-- in a word, the grassroots. Such movements are coming to power in country after country. They are neither puppets, nor blinded by fanaticism and ideology, as caricatured by some mainstream
pundits. To the contrary, these movements deserve our respect, friendship and support.
Latin Americans have often viewed the United States not as a friend but as an oppressor, the guarantor of an international economic system that works against them, rather than for them-- the very antithesis of hope and change. The Bush Administration has made matters much worse, and U.S. prestige in the region is now at a historic low. Washington's tendency to fight against hope and change has been especially prominent in recent U.S. responses to the democratically elected governments of Venezuela and Bolivia. While anti-American feelings run deep, history demonstrates that these feelings can change. In the 1930s, after two decades of conflict with the region, the United States swore off intervention and adopted a Good Neighbor Policy. Not coincidentally, it was the most harmonious time in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations. In the 1940s, every country in the region became our ally in World War Two. It can happen again.
There are many other challenges, too. Colombia, the main focus of the Bush Administration's policy, is currently the scene of the second largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with four million internally displaced people. Its government, which criminalizes even peaceful protest, seeks an extension of the free trade policies that much of the hemisphere is already reacting against. Cuba has begun a process of transition that should be supported in positive ways, such as through the dialogue you advocate. Mexicans and Central Americans migrate by the tens of thousands to seek work in the United States, where their labor power is much needed but their presence is denigrated by a public that has, since the development of opinion polling in the 1930s, always opposed immigration from anywhere. The way to manage immigration is not by building a giant wall, but rather, the United States should support more equitable economic development in Mexico and Central America and, indeed, throughout the region. In addition, the U.S. must reconsider drug control policies that have simply not worked and have been part of the problem of political violence, especially in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. And the U.S. must renew its active support for human rights throughout the region. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Latin Americans, the United States has come to stand for the support of inequitable regimes.
Finally, we implore you to commit your administration to the firm support of constitutional rights, including academic and intellectual freedom. Most of us are members of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), the largest professional association of experts on the region, and we have experienced first-hand how the Bush administration's attempt to restrict academic exchange with Cuba is counter-productive and self-defeating. We hope for an early opportunity to discuss this and other issues regarding Latin America with your administration.
Our hope is that you will embrace the opportunity to inaugurate a new period of hemispheric understanding and collaboration for the common welfare. We ask for change and not only in the United States.
Eric Hershberg, LASA President 2007-09, Professor of Politics and
Director of Latin American Studies, Simon Fraser University
Sonia E. Alvarez, LASA Past President (2004-2006), Leonard J. Horwitz
Professor of Politics, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Charles R. Hale, LASA Past President (2003-2004), Professor of
Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
Marysa Navarro-Aranguren, LASA Past President (2003-2004), Charles
Collis Professor of History, Dartmouth College
Arturo Arias, LASA Past President, (2001-2003), Professor of Spanish
and Portuguese University of Texas, Austin.
Susan Eckstein, LASA Past President (1997-98), Professor of Sociology &
International Relations, Boston University
Cynthia McClintock, LASA
Past President (1994-95), Professor of Political Science and
International Affairs, George Washington University
Carmen Diana Deere, LASA Past President (1992-94), Professor of Food
and Resource Economics and Director, Center for Latin American Studies,
University of Florida
Lars Schoultz, LASA Past President (1991-92), William Rand Kenan, Jr.,
Professor of Political Science, UNC, Chapel Hill
Jean Franco, LASA Past President (1990-91), Emeritus Professor,
Helen I. Safa, LASA Past President (1983-85), Emeritus Professor of
Anthropology and Latin American Studies, University of Florida.
Paul L. Doughty, LASA Past President (1974-75), Distinguished Service
Professor, Emeritus of Anthropology and Latin American Studies,
University of Florida
Cristina Rojas, School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa
Marisol de la Cadena, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UC Davis
John C. Chasteen, Distinguished Professor of History, UNC Chapel Hill
Mario Blaser, Assistant Professor of International Development, York
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
So I came across this video at ElCorillord.com that asks the question:"Entonces qual tu prefieres La Queen o a Ivy Queen?"
My mind immediately jumped to Jillian Baez's illuminating piece “En mi imperio”: Competing discourses of agency in Ivy Queen’s reggaetón" for the Centro Journal.
peep the abstract...
"This paper argues for a more complex understanding of the intersection of gender and representation in reggaetón. Using the music and career trajectory of the female artist Ivy Queen as a case study, the author demonstrates how her music and self-representation in interviews simultaneously functions as a potential site of female agency within a male dominated sphere while being constrained by transnational music industries and Latin American norms of femininity. More specifically, the essay offers a critical discourse analysis of the music, performances, interviews, and press reception of female reggaetón artist, Ivy Queen, otherwise known as the “queen of reggaetón,” to understand how she and the media construct her subjectivity and agency. Ultimately, the author argues that as reggaetón´s most popular female icon, Ivy Queen straddles a tenuous space in which her hybrid subjectivity is complex and at times seemingly contradictory"
Her paper is off the hook and I strongly encourage folks to read it (you can google it and find a pdf). But checking out that video definitely demonstrates a lot of what Baez discusses in her piece mainly how can we read the differences in La Queen's aesthetic performance versus Ivy's, and what factors influenced the change. But don't take my word for it read the article for yourself!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Over the course of eight long years George Bush's presidency has provided us with searing images of human brutality and suffering that will haunt the American conscience for generations. Artist and photographer Phillip Toledano created a series of installation artworks for the exhibition America the Gift Shop, that takes those images and crystallizes them like souvenirs of the Bush Administration. Toledano notes that, "We buy souvenirs at the end of a trip, to remind ourselves of the experience. What do we have to remind us of the events of the last eight years?
According to Toledano 's site he created the "products" to reflect “the current foreign policy in the fun-house mirror of American commerce.” As Toledano told Vanity Fair, he hopes that “as we draw near to the election, this work may remind people of what the current administration has done, and choose not to elect someone (McCain) who would happily give us more of the same.”
Thankfully, none of the "products" are actually for sale, so no one will profit from these scenes of American imperialism and barbarism. View more of the "products" at America the Gift Shop .What do you all think? Thought provoking or too far?
*Tip of the fitted to Vulture
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
*tip of the fitted to the amazing Wayne Marshall over at wayneandwax.com
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Although, El Cangri recently made a big splash in the mainland because of his endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, he says he is not partial to any of the candidates running for Governor of Puerto Rico. He told the newspaper Primera Hora, "I am going to be an instrument to deliver the people's questions."
The event is being sponsored by Univision, and has already garnered quite a bit of controversy. A group of young boricuas gathered outside of the Puerto Rican Convention Center , where the debate is being held, earlier today to burn Daddy Yankee albums. One of the youth, Jose Perez, said the artist is being used as "bait" in a system that otherwise neglects young people.
The discussion will be between Luis Fortuño, Edwin Irizarry, Rogelio Figueroa the current governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who will respond to various questions posed by young voters submitted through social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. For those of you on the isla you can catch the debate tonight on Univisión Puerto Rico.
What do you all think? Is this a smart political move or is that Daddy Yankee brand hair gel that El Cangri uses seeping into his brain?
[via/ Associated Press]
*tip of the fitted to Lossip
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
There was so much going on in this video Kanye is on some other shit. The video references American Psycho (the apartment is pretty much a replica of Patrick Batement's minus the Les Mis poster and you know blood), Coming to America (which is kind of old news since Busta did that in his Dangerous video), there are also some random ass spaceships or something ("Satillite of Love"?).
I'm confused, but obviously not as much as Ellen. Ellen looked like a baby deer in the forest after that clip. Craziness.
What up Mi Gente! I'm back from the Puerto Rican Studies Conference in San Juan with tons of stuff kicking around in my head that I hope to share on this blog in the coming weeks.
Lets kick stuff off and spark a debate. I'm putting up this YouTube clip from Real Talk NY from the VH1 Hip Hop Honors. Real Talk NY asked old schoolers to talk about what was lacking in the new generations music. The answers were varied, but they all basically agreed that the new school doesn't have anything on them.
I'm currently working on some stuff about these crisis moments in hip-hop (Hip Hop is Dead anyone?), and how people then remember and channel "old school" hip hop. I think there is this serious push towards a retro aesthetic in hip-hop and I'm working towards how it connects to the idea that hip hop is dead. If hip hop died in the new school does that mean that only the old school can revive it?
I'd love to hear what people think about this clip and the current nostalgia towards the old school.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
The video features reggaetoneros Don Omar and Julio Voltio along side a cast of Latino/a heavy hitters including: Alejandro Sanz, Paulina Rubio, John Leguizamo, Jessica Alba, Kate del Castillo, Cucu Diamantes (Yerba Buena), Pedro Martinez (Yerba Buena), Andres Levin (Yerba Buena), George Lopez, Luis Guzman, Lila Downs, Lin Manuel Miranda, Frankie Needles, Huey Dunbar, Nydia Caro, Ivonne Caro Caro, Brazilian Girls, Carlos Marín and family, Carola Gonzalez, Viva Nativa, Jose Alberti.
Lets see McCain pull that off...
*tip of the fitted to Lossip
- From the Nacotheque site:
- While fooling with their instruments and lyrics, they began playing covers of songs they knew by heart, adding the cumbia punch and twisting the lyrics into divine lesbian poetry filled with irony, love clichés and a lot of humour. La isla con chicas (from La isla bonita by Madonna), Kumbia dark (from Love Song by The Cure), and other classics started being reborn into a tropipunk queer latin sound. Six covers and three original tropipunk songs became Kumbia Nena!, which has been released in Argentina and Mexico under their independent label Horario Invertido. The girls are becoming a hit in Argentina and are planning their second tour across Mexico after Montreal. Their live shows have generated expectation for the love and passion they share with the audience from the stage. Their music is highly critical through an ironic melody, building the perfect scene for an eternal and memorable night of freedom, laughter, dance, and most probably love. The girls, punk-rockers by heart and nature, continue their personal projects and present them the night before and previously to their main appearance. Their variety enriches the outcast and wonderful experience that they represent.
For more information about the Kumbia Queers check out: myspace.com/laskumbiaqueers
For more information on Nacotheque events check out: nacotheque.com
Here's some videos...see you @ Fontanas...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Lindsay Lohan finally said what everybody knew. Last night on Loveline, she said that her and DJ Samantha Ronson are a couple and have been going out "A very long time." I'm sure keeping that ridiculously obvious relationship a secret must have been hard for LiLo.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Dog-Whistle Racism is political campaigning or policy-making that uses coded words and themes to appeal to conscious or subconscious racist concepts and frames. For example, the concepts ‘welfare queen,’ ’states’ rights,’ ‘Islamic terrorist,’ ‘uppity,’ 'thug,' 'tough on crime,' and ‘illegal alien’ all activate racist concepts that that have already been planted in the public consciousness and now are being activated by purposeful or accidental campaign activities, media coverage, public policy and cultural traditions. So, what’s dog whistle racism? It’s pure political theater to push buttons to win elections and policies. We’re here to identify, expose and respond to it. Join us.The site does an excellent job reporting on lefty and right politics, overall its pretty balanced coverage of racial discourse about the election. Please Check out the site Stop Dog Whistle Racisim!
There has been a lot of recent American media coverage about the about this Chilean youth subculture and their (often public) sexual exploration (despite the NY Times' late discovery). Drawing inspiration from anime, the young Chileans refer to themselves as "Pokemones" and don piercings and flat ironed asymmetrical haircuts. Mostly the American coverage is scandalized to the point of careless reporting.
While the sexual repression of the Pinnochet dictatorship is mentioned in passing as a cause for this sexual awakening and experimentation, the focus seems to be on the perceived sexual deviance of the youth. They are not monogamous, same-sex hook-ups are commonplace, and they are actively breaking down the boundaries between public and private that dictate sexual normativity. I think the American media coverage through coded language is pointing the finger at stereotypical beliefs about Latin American licentiousness and queerness (and please believe they threw in the fact that the kids were grinding to reggaeton) as reasons for the youth's "bad behavior." Cast into a national phenomenon, the media has ignored important issues of race and class in participation in the poncea parties. For instance, who has the ability, economically and otherwise, to actually partake in these activities? Whose bodies aren't policed and survailed? Even if its deemed naughty by the mainstream, it is still dictated by issues of access so not acknowledging that is careless journalism.
Also, by isolating this particular issue of "deviant" youth sex to a Chilean context the American media doesn't have to face the fact that similar sexual activity happens regularly in schools and suburbs across the U.S. (remember the whole oral sex bracelets a few years ago?). By focusing on youth sexuality and the need for effective sexual education "over there," we excuse ourselves from doing the work around youth sexuality and education that needs to happen here.
I'm not condoning 14 year-olds giving each other blowjobs on bus benches in Santiago (because that just seems unsanitary), but I am advocating for a more complex analysis of the issues behind these parties. I'm looking for more than "Chile's disaffected 'Pokemones' don't care much about politics. They're too busy having sex." It's just not that simple so stop the simplistic journalism.
*tip of the fitted cap to Guanabee